Technology has already changed the lives of most people over the past couple of decades, but how will it continue? With technology constantly evolving, it's almost impossible to predict what the impact could be over the next five, ten or even 20 years.
The care home sector has already seen a hint of where tech could take us in the future. Assistive technology can be used to help older people maintain their independence while living in their own home or continue to do things for themselves when they move into a care home.
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology refers to any devices or systems that enable a person to maintain or improve their independence, safety or wellbeing. For the elderly, it often focuses on items that help people with memory problems or other cognitive difficulties. However, it's an incredibly fast-developing area and there is almost unlimited potential for assistive technology and how it could complement the care home environment.
The increased usage of smartphones and tablets, as well as fast-speed internet, has made it much more possible for many people to experiment with assistive technology and see how it can support them or their elderly relatives.
Although you may not automatically put the elderly and smartphones together, there are many ways these devices can be altered to make them more accessible to the older generation. In fact, research suggests that more older people are getting their heads around technology and how it can help keep them stay connected to their relatives and the outside world.
But how can assistive technology help the elderly?
- Automated prompts/reminders: Sensors can be placed around the home to remind people to lock the door or turn the oven off when they walk nearby. Other reminders can prompt people to take medication at a certain time every day
- Connecting relatives: Apps can be used so family members can connect with their elderly relatives to offer support or give them reminders, reassuring them and the individual that help is always at hand
- Clocks and calendars
- Medication aids
- Locator devices: A small electronic tag can be attached to frequently misplaced items, such as keys, money or a phone
- Communication aids: Apps like 'Talking mats' can be used to help people with communication problems to tell others how they feel or what they want to do
- Safety: Telecare systems can be placed in a person's home to help them access support when they need it, often including community alarms, sensors and movement detectors, and video conferencing
The care home of the future
Looking at the role technology can play in care and nursing homes may become a crucial element of delivering the right care plans for older people, but there may be other equally important concerns for the future of care.
Ensuring that people regard care homes as a vital part of the community is considered to be just as important as implementing assistive technology, some experts argue. This is already something that individuals in need of specialist care are experiencing in some parts of the world.
Dementia villages encourage residents to be as independent as possible within a safe community environment made up of shops and bars. This allows them to freely enjoy the facilities and socialise on their own terms within a campus-style care home.
Regardless of how technology influences our lives in the future, ensuring the elderly feel part of the community will continue to be important for ensuring their wellbeing. At Barchester, we try to connect with the local community through a wide range of initiatives. We believe it helps to change how people view care homes, while also giving our residents the opportunity to engage with others.