Interview with Britt Östlund"To be old today is more than to be a care receiver - it is also to be a consumer and a citizen, and we need to include all these aspects when thinking of technology."
Can you introduce yourself, your academic background, where you work and what kind of topics have you mainly been working with?
I am professor at the Royal Institute of technology in Stockholm (KTH), and I have been doing research in the field of ageing, technology and design for more than 30 years. My research is very much upon improving the possibilities for old people to participate in design and making technology.
What has been your latest/on-going project?
For the moment, technological development and ageing is very much about robots, and systems with robots and censors, and artificial intelligence, so I am collaborating with engineers about this, and develop these kinds of systems and to test them with real users in real homes. I am also involved in several EU projects, about robotics and the potential of using robots in this field.
How would you describe the field of ageing in Sweden?
In Sweden, we have ageing population. I would like to contribute to late life that is modern, open and digital, but it has to be approved together with old people so they are able to recognize their potential. We have a welfare system, and technology is very much adapted in the framework of it. To be old today, is more than to be a care receiver, or patient – it is also to be a consumer and a citizen, and we have to include all these perspectives when we are thinking of technology.
What is your personal point of view on population ageing? Challenges/solutions?
The challenge is that it is very much technology driven, and has been ever since older people’s use of technology came on the agenda many years ago. The challenge is to form an interventionist perspective, into a more collaborative perspective in making technology. Therefore, we do not see technology only as a tool or an instrument, but we see it as a part of people’s lives. That is a very different way of seeing technology. My theoretical stand is that technology are artefacts, they are man-made, which means that you can affect technology and design.
Is there still something you would like to research? A topic that would need more focus?
Yes, the meaning of ageing and technology in that context. Maybe it is because I am also ageing myself, which is very exciting!
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