The future of homes with technology for aged care
When you think of your home being ‘smart’ you are probably considering the smart TV with all your favourite shows ready to be streamed, your fridge that reads out recipes and your voice assistant that orders anything you need at a mere command. However, with the rapidly evolving technology space providing more robots, algorithms and implants then most of us can keep up with, it is not a far away concept that as we age so will our needs – from tech integrated convenience, to tech-integrated safety.
Two concepts you don’t often associate with each other are ‘technology’ and ‘the elderly’. But this is destined to change, with industry leaders who see how the future can bring these two disparate entities together for the greater good, right into your home.
Aged care technology provider Homestay is among those in the industry pursuing technological advancement, as more people choose to remain in their homes rather than go to aged care facilities. Homestay’s CEO Phillipa Lewis sees the housing sector and how elderly people live at home evolving with technology playing a significant part in this. To her, the industry is evolving as devices become a more mainstream part of the process.
“The sector isn’t ever getting rid of the human touch. In fact, it’s becoming ‘high touch high tech’,” she said. “The two together make a powerful combination.”
Such technologies are designed to empower the user, at a time in their lives where multiple health and accessibility factors often deprive them of this vital aspect of their lives. These products allow older people – and those with a disability – to live independently for as long as possible, which can be a great deal longer than if such technology wasn’t available.
“These members of the community want connectivity with friends, family, neighbours, and carers,” Philippa said, “but they want to be in control as well. This technology makes living at home on your own safer while enhancing independence and freedom.”
You could consider that bringing advancements in technology to the aged care sector has elements of self-interest to it, as many would consider how they’d like to be treated once their own time comes to be the recipient of aged care. For Philippa, however, it’s more about working hard for the sector for all the people who are there now.
“If I do this now, it will – by its nature – be a better place for me when and if my time comes.”
There has been extensive research showing how people are living much longer. Members of the MacArthur Research Network on an Aging Society recently released a report suggesting that the average lifespan by 2050 has been underestimated by three to eight years.
They have forecast women to live on average between 89 to 94, not the standing forecast of 83 to 85 years. For men, it’s 83 to 86 years, rather than 80. There may very well be a resulting large group of elderly poor, as very few have a savings or superannuation regime that was designed to look after their needs when they reached upwards of 110.
“I also see people surviving as avatars after their passing where the collective of human knowledge and history is never lost,” Phillipa adds.
She also sees a time when ‘retirement’ doesn’t exist, and where robots deliver many necessary care services. It may seem like science fiction, but it’s a matter of fact already in Japan. As reported by The Straits Times in Singapore, many elderly people in Japan are embracing robot technology to offset the burden of loneliness.
A program initiated by Japanese local governments has seen an experimental program of lending interactive robots to 10 elderly residents of the city. The results have been positive and promising.
An ageing population has generated many concerns and challenges around how to provide adequate care to meet the increased demand. The addition advancements in technology will have a positive roll-on effect on other industries as well. Housing construction, for one, which Phillipa says will be influenced by several factors and will require the industry to take on some significant key considerations. Of principal concern is making them ‘community-oriented’.
“The building must be smaller and cater to people wanting to live in commune-like environments,” she said. “They should also be high rise but be located and designed in such a way as to draw the community into them.
“Older people suffer from loneliness and depression; the building has a lot to do with their mental wellbeing.”
“It must be tech-enabled and multifunctional,” she said. Aged care must combine with childcare and community care.
With a view to technology being ‘agnostic’ in its nature and being a platform upon which other technologies can vest their apps, Homestay is seeking to make an impression in an industry facing expansion in its client base, and an increasingly tech-savvy environment and culture. The federal government committed to investing significantly into aged care technology, hopefully equating to benefits being delivered across not just the aged care sector, but multiple industries, and society in general.
By Philippa Lewis, Futurist and CEO of HomeStay