scratched and colored lenses, and earplugs and headphones, they were able to expe- rience an older resident’s loss of dexterity, decreased hearing, and impaired vision. Bergman says he was also surprised at

how difficult it was to move around the of- fice in a wheelchair and maneuver through the doorways. “Architects rely on codes that are in place, but this experiment gave us the chance to test the rules of how things really worked,” Bergman says. “We gained a rich- er sense of those that we endeavor to serve.” A door handle is often overlooked in the

world, says Bergman, especially from an accessibility point of view. But one of the biggest advantages of designing with a 3D printer was the ability to create different complex shapes relatively quickly so they could experiment with how it would work and feel, he says. It also helped them test their ideas at a 1:1 scale. “We work with plans, models, or renderings that are representative of the object, not the actual object itself,” he says. “But with 3D printing, we could evaluate the final product.”

The future of change With all its advantages, this technology could bring about the possibility of a new Industrial Revolution, according to an arti- cle written by Dr. Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab. Not only has an entire restaurant been printed including tables, chairs, and plates holding 3D-produced food, but he says it wouldn’t need to stop there. Coughlin suggests that in the future, customized foods could be printed at gro- cery stores or that a home printer could automatically notify the store when ingre- dients are needed to be delivered. When it comes to the intersection of 3D

printing and aging, Coughlin gives exam- ples of what has been referred to as pixels- to-printer-to-plate, including how an older person could cook without the danger of using a burner or open flame. Another idea would be a nutritionist’s diet designed spe- cifically for an older person and made avail- able on 3D recipes. Or adult children could send commands remotely by smartphone to

the printer, making sure their parent has a hot, nutritious meal. The future of 3D printing in senior living

does seem almost limitless, but it will also be a marketing opportunity for communities, Cini says. “We’ve already changed how we provide dining with different venues and just-in-time cooking. I think we’ll see huge improvements in the possibilities in the next six months to a year.” And she sees it as a competitive resource between communities. “Today, if you don’t have good Wi-Fi, peo- ple don’t want to live there, but in the future it will be if you don’t have 3D printing,” says Cini. This technology will definitely play a

role in senior living, Bergman says, and he believes the advantages could start with elements that are highly customizable like wheelchairs, walkers, toilet seats, and shower stalls. “Can you imagine how nice it would be to have your walker or wheelchair conform to your geometry, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your body?” he asks. “This could help with the ease of mobil-

ity and that would be such a great benefit if we could make it easier for people to move through the world,” Bergman says. “There’s no doubt 3D printing can really help with how we provide the built envi- ronment for seniors.”

In an article written by Dr. Jenny Chen

at 3D Heals, she sees three achievable goals for 3D printing in managing an aging population: increasing life span, improving quality of life, and reducing or containing the cost. She also notes there are four primary areas in health care that hold promise with 3D printing: » External objects such as prosthetics or wearable devices like hearing aids;

» Implantable devices or implants, includ- ing orthopedic joints;

» Personalized pharmacy, such as a 3D pill that would contain the compound release profile and the patient’s specific data; and

» Bio-printing and regenerative medicine for tissue repair or organ replacement.

This technology is also being used in vascu- lar medical training with 3D printed models of patients with stroke, clots, aneurysms, and other pathologies, helping to develop surgical skills at no risk and at lower costs than when using human cadavers or ani- mals, according to Stratasys, a 3D printing solutions and services company. They note these models also have the added benefit of mimicking living human tissue more realistically. And not only can they provide education for the patient and their family, physicians are able to plan and even prac- tice a procedure beforehand.

The future of 3D printing in senior living does seem almost limitless, but it will also be a marketing opportunity for communities.

In the works The 3D printing possibilities are also playing a strong role in the future of health care itself, as progress continues on being able to print livers and kidneys, says Cini, which would have a big impact on transplants. “They’re going through all the approval processes now, but imagine what that can mean for our life spans. You wouldn’t have to worry about your body rejecting an organ because they would use your tissue,” she says.

As its potential continues to gain ground,

the 3D printing market is growing, projected to be worth $32.78 billion by 2023, according to MarketWatch. And as the population shifts, so will the way in which we age. For those in the senior living industry, Coughlin notes that changes won’t come about because of the sheer number of older people, but by the expectations that they will ultimately bring. The future of 3D printing and technology will likely be part of our response.


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