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QUALITY IMPROVEMENT


3D Printing and the Future of Aging By Debbie Reslock A


s high tech becomes more familiar in senior living, from electronic medical records to providing high


speed Wi-Fi to residents, the next game changer may be whether 3D printing is available to meet the demands of future customers. Reaching far beyond the latest app, this technology’s possibilities range from creating food to reproducing human tissue. The ability to print a three dimensional


object from digital files is the end result of this additive process. Thin layers of a spec- ified material are deposited until the object is formed, allowing it to create a highly customized prototype in a short period of time. With its potential of increasing both the quantity and quality of life, 3D printing is listed by author Lisa Cini as one of six technologies that will change the face of se- nior living in her book “The Future is Here: Senior Living Reimagined.” For example, she sees 3D printing as


being able to bring back the joy of eating for many residents. “If you can’t swallow, your food often has to be put into a blender and so you basically drink your hamburger and french fries,” says Cini, president of both Best Living Tech and Mosaic Design Studio. “But the problem is that food is so much more than just nutrients,” she says. “It should be a happy experience, not clinical. Dining is part of being engaged. It improves the quality of life.” Food is about taste, texture, and ap- pearance, Cini says, which can all be lost if someone struggles to swallow. “But now they’re working on being able to print out meatloaf and mashed potatoes that could make mealtimes positive and pleasurable again,” she says. Referring to the process of 3D printed food that has a texture able to nearly melt once it’s in the mouth, Cini says this is a great example of when technology


36 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE / ISSUE 6 2017


Courtesy of Perkins Eastman


doesn’t replace the human touch, but actu- ally humanizes the experience. Another area where 3D printing can im-


pact senior living will be the ability to print hearing aids and dentures, Cini says. Wheth- er they’ve been lost or in the case of dentures that need to be refitted, the resident would no longer have to wait for insurance approval or an appointment. They could be customized and replaced immediately. “It seems like creativity would be the only


limit to how we could improve the quality of life for seniors,” says Cini.


Real world application The architects at the Chicago office of Per- kins Eastman, an international planning and architecture firm, found themselves with a hands-on opportunity using a 3D printer. With a large concentration of this office’s work focused on the senior living market, they took on the task of designing a better door handle. But they first conduct- ed empathy experiments to replicate how the body ages and interacts with the real world, says Josh Bergman, project architect. By wearing rubber gloves and rubber bands,


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