A newly-released app lets seniors rate the ‘age-friendliness’ of restaurants, community centres, libraries, crosswalks, shopping centres and public transit in their city ― and share their ratings with others.
The free Age-CAP app uses GPS to pinpoint the user’s location, no matter which city they live in worldwide. It’s available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
Users rate locations on things like general accessibility, availability of seating, lighting levels, staff attitudes and background music levels. The app then produces an overall rating, based on the World Health Organization’s age-friendly cities guidelines.
People can also simply browse the database to see which locations and services in a neighbourhood are considered ‘age-friendly’ and why.
The Age-CAP (Age-friendly Communities Assessment App) was developed by researchers at the University of Toronto (U of T) and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, a member of the University Health Network.
“It empowers older adults to evaluate what’s senior-friendly and what’s not,” says one of the app’s creators, Dr. Alex Mihailidis, a U of T-Toronto Rehab scientist. “This is a new way for seniors to create a crowd-sourced database of age-friendly locations.”
The team hopes the app will promote ‘active’ aging, encouraging seniors to get out and about in the community. Social isolation in the elderly can lead to depression and physical problems, such as loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.
There’s also a safety dimension. “Already, people are using the app to warn others about dangerous crosswalks, and subway stops that don’t have elevators,” says Dr. Mihailidis.
Some of the features users can rate, by indicating agreement or disagreement on a scale of one to five, include:
People can also offer general comments, and create new categories for locations or services they wish to rate.
Will seniors embrace the app? Dr. Mihailidis points to an upward trend in mobile technology use among seniors, citing statistics that suggest between 30 and 70 per cent are using smart-phone devices.
As the app’s database grows, it can be used to advocate for improvements that make cities more senior-friendly, says Dr. Mihailidis. He hopes businesses, including restaurants, and municipal politicians will take note of the ratings.
Dr. Mihailidis developed the Age-CAP app with Dr. Barry Trentham, an assistant professor in U of T’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, and U of T students Manas Bhatnagar (clinical engineering) and Jennifer Jimmo (occupational therapy). Dr. Mihailidis is a senior scientist and the Barbara G. Stymiest Research Chair in Rehabilitation Technology at Toronto Rehab-UHN and an associate professor of occupational science and occupational therapy and a core faculty member in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at U of T, with a cross appointment to the Department of Computer Science.
The app was developed with funding from Toronto Rehab and is owned by Toronto Rehab-UHN.
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