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Preparing for future jobs: Ageing populations

Monday, July 20, 2015
Science and Society

What would the world look like in 2030 and what would be the plum jobs then? Futurists and foresight specialists have been looking at various trends and making predictions in this regard. Not all of these predictions will be applicable to all countries as they will be in various states of development.

Japan and Western Europe, for instance, already have significant aging populations (people aged sixty and more) and thus many new jobs related to caring for persons in their eighties and nineties will be available. In Middle Eastern and some Asian countries, this is unlikely to be the case in the near future.

Trinidad and Tobago presently has an aging population of some thirteen per cent and this is expected to continue to rise. So it stands to reason that, in the future, there will be a need for traditional caregivers, caregivers with additional technological skills and some new job areas will emerge. 

People of age tend to be challenged by issues of mobility and balance. This has led to a number of technological aids being used. These have been increasing in sophistication as new and emerging technologies are adopted. 

Motorised wheelchairs endowed with collision avoidance systems are likely to be common place. Whilst the caregivers would not be expected to possess mechatronic engineering expertise, they would need to have an understanding of the operation and simple troubleshooting of such devices; to deal with simple problems that will arise on a routine basis.

Motorised exoskeletons are also very likely to be commonplace then, to deal with the common ailments of arthritis and natural joint degeneration. 

A cursory search at any reasonably-stocked pharmacy would reveal that devices for joint support and healing are increasing. These are, presently, all passive devices; that is they have no motors or actuators in them. 

The reducing costs of miniaturised motors combined with sensors and artificial intelligence will soon result in them being incorporated in these devices. The devices, then, will not only support the joints but be actively involved in assisting motion.

The placing on and taking off these devices would be done by caregivers as well as charging and routine maintenance. So again, some degree of engineering knowledge would be required. These enhanced devices would also have value as physical therapy devices and thus, some basic biomedical engineering skills would augment the value of the caregiver.

As people age, memories of events and experiences in their earlier lives are at a premium. In effect, nostalgia assumes centre stage. Nostalgists would likely be an important new profession of the future. So what would the job entail? Two parts at least. One would be akin to an interior decorator but for recreating memories through decorations, artefacts and designs. Think of heritage homes instead of heritage villages.

The other and probably more important aspect would be the digital recreation of occasions, significant life events and celebrations like birthdays, weddings, graduations and funerals etc. The use of cloud and other digital technologies to store, structure and display these events, on demand, would be personalised. 

Think of personal digitised museums. Nostalgists would not only design and or provide advice on the technological systems required but would be required to build and implement or supervise such activities. The subject matter required for such a career would include ICT, psychology and design. Clearly a multi-disciplinary field with a strong core in engineering and technology.

In fact, most of the jobs of the future, both improved existing and new, would require a good background in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem). There is thus a clear and present need to bolster and expand our national programmes in Stem. Niherst and BG, among others, have ongoing programmes. The formal education sector needs further strengthening.  


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