HEALTH-E research group

Technology for Older Adults

Dr. George Demiris, the Alumni Endowed Professor in Nursing, inspires his students to explore the possibilities of technology in helping older adults maintain quality of life. In Demiris’ new School of Nursing lab, robotic pets make sweet purring sounds and graduate studentStudents in the HEALTH-E lab with robotic pets test fall detection devices.

These students are part of an interdisciplinary research team called HEALTH-E, co-directed by Dr. Hilaire Thompson, UW professor of nursing. The HEALTH-E research group partners with several local and national organizations, from retirement communities to Microsoft Research, to best design and test technology to support aging.

HEALTH-E is comprised of graduate students and postdoctoral trainees from both Schools of Nursing and Medicine.
“This new laboratory will serve as an incubator for innovative solutions to support older adults,” Demiris said. “The goal is to include end users in all phases of the system design, to ensure that their needs and preferences are being addressed, and to enable researchers and students on campus to unleash their creativity in designing new solutions to existing gerontological challenges.”
Student presenting in the HEALTH-E labAnother project in testing in the HEALTH-E lab is an interactive tool for dementia care. The system, placed in a local memory-care unit, provides entertainment, communication, information, reminiscence therapy, and cognitive training. Most of the technology, whether software or hardware, will be put to scrutiny through academic research. Since 2013, the interdisciplinary team at HEALTH-E has produced more than two dozen peer-reviewed publications examining technology in aging.

The lab was recently highlighted in the July 2015 press release for the White House Conference on Aging and subsequently in an article for the Huffington Post. Through this lab, Demiris and Thompson are teaching students to evaluate how technology can help older adults and their families and caregivers, as well as how to disseminate that technology to those who need it.