Technology in care: what Britain’s ageing population expects
From waking up to an alarm clock on our mobile phone, to using a computer at work and interacting with smart televisions at home, using technology has become second nature to humans. We have become confident using our phones to book a holiday to the other side of the world or buy a piece of movie memorabilia from a certain auction website, but we are still lagging behind in the everyday use of technology in the management of our health and care.
A report conducted by Caterplus¹ in June 2019, found that 66% of the 3,000 people interviewed between the ages of 45-65 expected technology to have advanced significantly by their retirement age. There has already been a considerable increase in the number of older people using mobile devices, with Ofcom reporting a dramatic difference in older users from 17% in 2008 to 78% as of August 2018. Alison Preston, Head of Media Literacy at Ofcom said, “The UK’s older generation is beginning to embrace smart technology and is using it to keep in touch with friends and family.”² Based on this change within the last decade, experts believe the number of older mobile users in 2028 will have increased again, covering almost all the UK’s population.
From fitness trackers to mindfulness apps, many of us are already starting to embrace smartphone technology as a way of improving our general health and wellbeing. However, people are expecting online facilities to support their care in a more formal way, including personalised digital services for medical needs, wellbeing and hospital appointments.
Research has shown that Britain’s ageing population wants to see the use of mobile phones and tablets become a daily method of managing their health as they age, with 73% of the Caterplus sample expressing this as a desire for their senior years. Building on the information that we are already gathering through fitness trackers and smart watches, such as steps walked, heart rate and exercise completed, this collated data has the potential to be utilised by health care professionals to make informed decisions on the future care of a person.
There is also an increasing expectation that health information is free to access by the individual – so that they too can see a full picture of their care. This technology has already been implemented across a variety of hospitals within the UK, with the NHS using client portals to allow their patients to access their hospital health information in a convenient and secure manner through a computer, tablet or smartphone.
However, the joining of health professionals and patients does not need to be limited to health records. As demonstrated in our IQ:careplanner Client Portal, the technology can be used to connect someone to their full care support team. The Client Portal enables people receiving home care services to view their care plan for the day, book appointments or make new requests, and even upload photos and share memories. These small opportunities for being involved in care decisions bring a greater sense of independence to the individual, as they have control over the information about their care, and quick access to the people providing it.
The Client Portal technology brings significant reassurance to both clients and family members, bridging the connection between loved ones, bringing peace of mind for everyone.
Positive impacts in place, and the future
Current technology, such as smartphones, mobile internet and Wi-Fi are already having a profound effect on the population, across all ages.
According to a recent Ofcom report, over a quarter of over 75s use a tablet or computer in their daily routine, and half of internet users aged 65-74 have a social media profile³. In our blog ‘The transformational power of mobile technology in care’ we touched upon the use of the internet helping to improve the lives of the older generation through virtual communities and video link-up. To these people, the internet is more than just updating their medical status, it is a communication tool to the outside world.
Recently, a care home for residents living with dementia in Somerset reported a dramatic change following the introduction of mobile technology, Wi-Fi and music. The staff stated that using personalised playlists transmitting to old mobile phones, the personalities and behaviours of the residents improved significantly, alleviating restlessness, increasing relaxation and improving sleeping patterns.
The landmark partnership between Amazon, the team behind Alexa, and the NHS has already shown how technology can help to alleviate some of the stress faced by local GPs and hospitals. Providing information to people within their home at a touch of a button, or in this case, command of a voice, has opened further communication for those with a disability, giving them independence and empowerment.
As generations grow older and their knowledge, experience and confidence in technology moves with them, we must embrace the opportunities available to us to ensure we meet their expectations along the way. Care portals, medication apps and health information are only the beginning of how technology can help people’s health and wellbeing, but we must also ensure the level of human care continues; after all, you can never replace the warmth of a caring hand.
What are your thoughts on technology and its future within care? Let us know via our social media.
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