Ron Baecker, Professor,
Human Computer Interaction, Department of Computer Science, University of
The goal of our research is to envision, prototype, design,
construct, and evaluate powerful and flexible electronic aids to support
graceful aging. Unlike most new technology designed to help seniors, which focuses
on remote monitoring, problem detection, and intelligent machine assistance,
our aim is to enrich the lives of older adults by empowering them to help
themselves. I shall illustrate this approach by describing current projects in
our Technologies for Aging Gracefully lab (TAGlab).
I shall describe projects which support the following activities: 1)
reminiscing about one’s experiences over a lifetime or those that happened
recently; 2) recalling names and accessing helpful words and sentences at appropriate
times via context-aware mobile devices; 3) feeling more connected and less
isolated and lonely through the use of novel technologies for family
communication; and 4) reading eBooks by oneself or with family despite vision
loss or other obstacles to reading. I shall also discuss the role of computer
games and exercises in staying mentally fit, and in enhancing one’s “cognitive
reserve” and thereby one’s ability to not express Alzheimer’s disease despite
the neurological damage that often accompanies aging.
I shall stress that the benefits of the interventions go well beyond
supporting cognition and communication to generating feelings of efficacy,
supporting a sense of identity, and enhancing relationships with family, friends,
I am grateful to the amazingly talented and dedicated team at TAGlab;
to our collaborators including researchers and clinicians at Baycrest,
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Columbia
University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and OCADU; and to Google
Research, the GRAND Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada, Microsoft
Research, NSERC, and the University of Toronto Connaught Fund for grant
Ron Baecker is the
Bell Chair in Human-Computer Interaction, co-founder of the Dynamic Graphics
Project, founder of the Knowledge Media Design Institute, and founder and
director of the Technologies for Aging Gracefully lab (TAGlab) at the
University of Toronto. He is also Affiliate Scientist with the Kunin-Lunenfeld
Applied Research Unit of Baycrest and Adjunct Scientist with the Toronto
Rehabilitation Institute. He has been named one of the 60 Pioneers of Computer
Graphics by ACM SIGGRAPH, has been elected to the CHI (Computers and Human
Interaction) Academy by ACM SIGCHI, and has been given the Canadian Human
Computer Communications Society Achievement Award. His B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D.
are from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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