Technology solutions to assist those in later life are designed to help maintain a person’s independence, while providing invaluable security and support. All too often, many frequently miss the mark as they fail to keep the person actually using the service in mind in the final design and use of the product.
After all, how many of us would want to be monitored in our own home as if we are under surveillance all the time? How many of us would feel happy to talk to an AI robot as a long term companion? How many of us would want to feel ‘forced’ to wear a device – nevermind would actually listen to health professionals or well meaning relatives and wear it all the time for it to be of any use?
A study in 2017 published in the Lancet, showed that our later life is actually spent in predominantly good health. Great news for us all. Men aged 65 years can now on average expect to live 17.6 years past this age – 11.2 years with no care needs and 4 years with low dependence care needs*. And this is the average – there is a growing percentage of the population living comfortably at home well into their nineties.
So why is it that many providers with technology at the heart of their service continue to group those in the 65 plus age bracket as if they are the same? As a society, in general we are not only living for longer but living at home for longer – clearly later life now encompasses a large breadth of individual wants and needs.
Harriet Bosnell, Director of Health, Care and Support at Curo, provided this great checklist for technology to help people stay living longer at home in a recent article in Inside Housing and highlights some of the technology traps that could be fallen in to.
Checklist for Assistive Technology**
- Technology needs to be utterly reliable with swift and ring-fenced connectivity in an emergency – after all I might need it to summon urgent help one day (remember, we’re all tomorrow’s users of assistive technology)
- It needs to be attractive, sleek and good looking enough for all of us to want to have it in our home. It needs to look like I’m worth it
- Technology must connect me to my friends and family, wherever they are in the world. I don’t want to be lonely. When I’m under the weather I want neighbours, near and far, who can help me to join in with the things going on in the community that I’ve always loved
- I want technology to be non-intrusive, easy and intuitive to use, so I don’t feel patronised by the technology I’ve allowed into my home
- I should be cost-effective and have different price points. If I want to upgrade to include a voice-activated Amazon Dot thingy, I can
- I don’t want to be tracked by my children via sensors so they know how long I’ve been in the bathroom and I don’t want to talk to a robot instead of a human
This is a great list when evaluating how new technology can help promote independent living and is entirely consistent with the feedback we get from our customers. However, at Alertacall we would like to suggest one more addition to the checklist:
7. I am an individual. I want ‘technology’ to reflect and support my unique needs and preferences. While someone in their early nineties may be competently surfing the web, I may be 65 and a techno-phobe. There is no one-size fits all.
This is why Alertacall has developed a range of devices, including more ‘traditional’ telephones (which are still our most popular products), as well as using the latest smart devices and technology. Not everyone wants a tablet. Furthermore, contact revolves around the individual’s own needs – it’s simply the press of a button for those that want to have daily safety confirmation and still maintain their independence, however, it can also offer individuals who want more contact the opportunity to speak to a member of our highly trained and friendly contact centre team on a daily basis if they so choose.
It is important that as a society we don’t fall in to the trap of grouping those over the age of 65 as if they are all the same. Equally, service providers seeking to use technology to help those in later life stay independent need to also have this at the forefront of their minds when considering technology solutions. Furthermore, at a time when there is evidence of increasing social isolation and loneliness, it is essential that technological developments do not become a substitute for human contact.
*CFAS (2017) Is late-life dependency increasing or not? A comparison of the Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS) Lancet 390 (10103):1676–1684
**Bosnell, H. (2018). A checklist for technology to help older people live longer in their home. Inside Housing. Available at: https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/comment/a-checklist-for-assisted-living-technology-57154 [Accessed 31 Jul. 2018].