How can technology aid retirement living?

Gavin Bashar, UK Managing Director of market-leading provider of Connected Care and Health solutions Tunstall Healthcare, discusses the ways technology is transforming retirement living.

Technology has improved many areas of modern life, but has yet to realise its full potential in the housing sector and related health and care services.

The concept of the ‘connected home’ is becoming an accepted reality, with technology such as smart speakers and smart boilers becoming commonplace. However, not all housing providers recognise the role technology can play in enhancing independence, providing effective support and sustaining tenancies.

An estimated 1.7 million people in the UK use technology to help them remain safe and independent at home. Telecare and assistive technology help to manage and prevent common risks such as fires or falls, allowing people that have retired to be self-sufficient living at home.

Safety and security

Warden call systems, as they are often known, are a common feature of group living environments, however many of these are around 30 years old, and rapidly becoming obsolete. Newer systems support the use of telecare, where unobtrusive sensors are placed around the home, and will raise an alert with onsite staff or a specialist monitoring centre if they sense an event such as a fire, flood or carbon monoxide leak. They can also monitor for falls, or people with dementia leaving home and being unable to find their way back. GPS trackers are an efficient way to keep people safe and secure when living independently and come in the form of a wearable tracker which often includes a fall detector. This allows the user to be located if they leave the house or call for assistance if they have a fall.

The latest generation of technology is able to not just respond to potentially life-threatening issues such as fires and gas leaks, but to offer much more intelligent enhancements to our lives. For example, enabling the use of WiFi across a development to support increased contact with friends and family, reducing social isolation, and giving access to online activities and services, such as games, shopping and utilities to enhance wellbeing.

Retirement can be lonely, so this use of technology is an effective way to stay connected to loved ones as well as what is happening in the rest of society.

Prevention

Technology can also make communication with providers easier and more efficient, for example when reporting repairs. IoT devices can detect faults in appliances such as boilers and washing machines, reducing the need for emergency call outs and reducing damage to properties. This also helps to build better relationships with tenants as they no longer need to report issues with heating or hot water, a smart boiler will automatically alert the maintenance team who can react before the appliance fails. Where tenants are older or vulnerable this not only improves their experience but can make a difference to their health and overall wellbeing.

Big data can monitor patterns in an individual’s daily behaviour, giving insight that can enable efficient care planning as part of a strengths and assets-based approach. This predictive modelling can also alert on potential wellbeing issues. For example, motion sensors can detect increased use of the bathroom, which may be an early sign of a urinary tract infection. Equally, decreasing use of the kitchen may indicate an individual is struggling to self-care.

Technology also has a major role to play in empowering people to manage their own health at home, with vital signs monitoring enabling them to become more knowledgeable about their condition and giving clinicians the information to intervene at an earlier stage, avoiding the need for more complex care.

The speed of technological advancement and consumer adoption continues to increase, and providers from across the housing spectrum need to consider the ways digital solutions can not only improve the quality and efficiency of the services they provide, but also deliver the homes their customers expect.

As BT has announced its intention to complete the move to a digital communications infrastructure by 2025, there is no better time for housing providers to plan for the exciting opportunities presented by digital technologies, and the benefits a connected approach can
bring them and the people living their homes.

For more information, please visit: https://uk.tunstall.com/