On Thursday evening, I went to a fascinating event at Digital Catapult Brighton called Tech Beyond the Screen: Positive Ageing.
It was to stimulate debate and discussion about how we can use technology in the social care sector to improve both older people’s lives, but also those who do the caring.
The care industry is a hugely underfunded area. People who work as carers either in a care home or visiting older people in their own homes don’t do it for the money: as Eric Kihlstrom from KareInn pointed out, you could get more money flipping burgers at McDonald’s or stacking shelves ar Asda.
Slow to adapt
It’s also an area that’s been slow to adopt technology: around 75% of care homes today are still paper-based.
Eric Kihlstrom again made a fascinating analogy. At the start of his career, when he worked on the Ronald Reagan Star Wars programme in 1985, there was 1 computer for all the scientists. Fast forward to 2016 and a modern care home is no different. There’s 1 desktop PC to cater for all the staff and their needs. It’s no wonder that care homes haven’t advanced.
There is investment in care
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Steve Allen from Friends of the Elderly explained that his charity – that runs a number of care homes and day centres across the country – is investing in tech that can improve the life of those in care and doing the caring: anything from GPS trackers to care planning apps.
And the developments being made are having a significant impact. Eric Kihlstrom talked about the amazement of one care home manager who used his software. “I won’t have to come in on Saturday to write up all my paperwork!”
The tech being developed isn’t necessarily revolutionary in how it works. It’s a revolution for those who use it. It’s user-needs based and can save hundreds of man-hours, giving time back to the older people who need it most.
Having said the technology isn’t innovative does a disservice to Thursday night’s final speaker. Lise Pape works at Walk With Path and has created technology that helps to prevent falls.
Currently 5 older people fall every minute of the day and it costs the NHS millions to treat them. Lise’s technology is brilliant. Path Feel is an insole that buzzes and vibrates to help older people balance better.
No less brilliant is Path Finder – a simple piece of light technology that you can see below. It cuts in half issues of freezing gait, a particular problem for people with Parkinsons.
Overall, a truly enlightening event which only goes to highlight how much technology there is out there that can help older people and carers – the challenge is how to match the two up.
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