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internet evolution, embedded ICT, gerontechnology services

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Information and communications technologies (ICT) have undergone extraordinary advances in the past 5 years. Two aspects of these developments are described along with their implications for gerontechnology. First, international high speed Internet networks serving the academic community are reviewed, acknowledging that today’s academic networks are poised to inform the public’s computer networks of tomorrow. Second, computational systems that increasingly penetrate every facet of the built environment, for instance, clothing, furnishings, personal items, transportation and home environmental control and security are described. Over time such embedded systems are integrated into large wired and wireless networks of devices which may extend over international boundaries. High bandwidth networked applications in development include multipoint videoconferencing using multicast IPv6 protocols, telepresence, virtual reality simulations and remote sensing for gathering data in built environments. Examples of how these developments create new applications for all four of the goals of gerontechnology - prevention, compensation, care and enhancement of quality of life - are provided. Enhanced technological services for the elderly will develop, including nutritional monitoring, safety and security, mental health and healthcare, environmental control, and communications. International networks promise more uniform care standards for the elderly, increase the opportunity for collaboration among researchers and educators tackling the difficult problems associated with aging, including dementia, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Networks have the promise of enhancing outcomes by maximizing economies of scale by collecting research observations from multiple international venues. New educational approaches addressing the challenges of aging include virtual reality applications which simulate the impact of aging for young individuals. Monitoring individuals in their homes using ICT and computer networks can impose significant ethical responsibilities upon governing agencies.

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Gerontechnology, v. 6, issue 3, p. 135-146