The growing ageing population, and support for those living with disabilities, are areas of increasing demand on the UK’s health and care system. In response to these challenges and needs, new and innovative assisted living technologies have been developed to support older people and those with disabilities to live more independent and sustainable lives in their own homes.
- The UK population is getting older, with 18% aged 65 and over, of which 32% are living alone, according to ONS;
- Nearly one in eight older people now live with some level of unmet need that would limits their ability to carry out vital everyday tasks, according to Age UK.
- Almost one-fifth of the UK population are disabled, and over a quarter of those experience some form of limitations to choice or control over their daily lives, according to ONS.
Assisted living in practice
Assisted living technology refers to products or services which help maintain or improve the ability of elderly or disabled people to live more independently. These include telehealth, telecare, wellness and digital participation services.
Telehealth and telecare services are the most popular types of assisted living solutions. Developed as a branch of social alarm services, telecare services combine a range of environmental sensors (e.g. smoke, flood and extreme temperature detectors) and personal sensors (e.g. fall detectors, occupancy sensors, and medication reminders) to monitor the safety and wellbeing of elderly and disabled people, enabling speedy responses to dangers. In comparison, telehealth services focus on supporting those who self-manage their long-term conditions. Telehealth systems are usually built around a smart hub and sensors. These collect the patient’s vital signs data (weight, pulse, blood pressure, blood glucose, lung capacity) at home and transmit it to a remote clinical monitoring service. Here, their health is monitored and alerts addressed. In practice, telecare services are often used in conjunction with telehealth solutions.
Wellness services are another popular area of assisted living. These include providing online personal training to improve elderly and disabled people’s fitness, employing nutritional content scanning systems to monitor food intake and improve compliance with diets, as well as using mobile messaging to support them as they, for example, stop smoking. In this way, wellness services take a more proactive approach than telehealth and telecare insomuch as they encourage elderly and disabled people to move towards a healthier lifestyle.
While these solutions focus more on physical health, digital participation services aim to improve mental health and wellbeing. These include solutions to facilitate and stimulate social interaction, encouragement to maintain contact with family and friends, and interact with like-minded people. They also include entertainment and educational solutions that provide easy access to TV shows, VR games and online learning programmes. Other technologies provide assistance with online shopping, banking, and a range of e-public services at home. These allow for engagement in all kinds of social activities and so promote a healthy mind.
Benefits and impact
With the support of telecare and telehealth services, we could remotely monitor the safety and wellbeing of elderly and disabled people, allowing for self-management of their health at home and reduce reliance on traditional healthcare services. With wellness services, encouragement is provided to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle, which could prevent or delay the need for support. In addition, digital participation services could help educate, entertain and stimulate social interaction to enrich the lives of people in need of social support, thus reducing loneliness and empowering them to live more independent and sustainable lives.
Have you got any thoughts on assisted living?
If you have any ideas around how we can improve assisted living, or want to work with us on this topic, please get in touch. For more information, and to find out about upcoming events around the future of housing, or simply to join the conversation, please email Bin Guan, City Planning Researcher, on email@example.com.