How can we intelligently use non-intrusive tools and methods to aid older and vulnerable people in their homes?
With an ever increasing ageing population, the issue of care for the elderly and vulnerable becomes more prevalent not just at a local level but also nationally. The problems faced by this group of people, such as social isolation, quality of care, cost of care and quality of life are problems that all of us will one day face.
Please watch the video about Frank.
One of the biggest hurdles we currently face is communicating what we already have available to those who may be able to make use of it.
Raising awareness that technology can enhance elderly and vulnerable peoples lives in addition to traditional care packages is important. In some instances technology may prevent the need for formal care for some years as it can provide peace of mind that, even though risk cannot be avoided someone will be alerted and know if there is a problem.
Informing relatives as well as those affected as to how technology could enhance the life of a vulnerable or isolated person is also an important challenge. It is a fact that older people will listen and take more heed of the voice of a grandchild more than any other family member. How could we use that to help support and prompt people who may have short term memory issues?
One area of technology that perhaps is being under-utilised is the use of the internet and mobile phone technology to help with the social isolation aspect of vulnerability.
What is out there to help connect families who are geographically apart?
How can older people be encouraged to use technology? How can it be made simpler? How can they access it more easily?
It would be nice to be able to provide technology to bring remote families closer together to allow geographical boundaries to be brought down by technological communication that is easy to use and that could perhaps be lead at one end and just received at the other end.
All of these challenges are important and relevant to improving the quality of life and care of those older and vulnerable people within our society.
The City of York Council Telecare service is now well established with over 1300 customers currently benefitting from some sort of telecare sensor. Lots more information on this service can be found at: http://www.york.gov.uk/health/Services_for_older_people/telecare/.
We routinely now offer some home safety devices to Warden Call customers (smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and bogus caller buttons). Other customers have more complex packages of technology installed in their homes to facilitate and support traditional care packages.
Care Managers, Occupational Therapists and GPs regularly refer in to the service to provide equipment as part of a commissioned care package or to provide additional support to prevent the need for a move to residential care. We are about to start a project with a local pharmacy to be able to dispense medication into telecare devices which will alert the customer to when they are required to take their medication.
The Council have worked with Safer at York to follow up any Bogus Caller alerts to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable customers and has invested money in order to provide equipment free of charge to as many customers who require it.
Funding for equipment is already available. City of York Council have already agreed to spend £250k every year for the next 4 years to be able to provide this type of equipment in the knowledge that it will help reduce risks in some cases and reduce the need for care in other cases.
Although much as this funding is already earmarked for specific use, it is possible that funding could be provided for a small pilot if the right technology was available to help support our desire to reduce social isolation. Or if anyone could suggest a way to promote the service that exists in such a way as to encourage family members and carers to request more information or to give us complicated scenarios to work through so as to enhance the service we already provide.
City of York Council are committed to continue to provide a quality telecare service to the citizens of York – what we are looking for in this Challenge are new ideas as to how we provide the service, how we can be more effective at telling people about the service and how we can maximise technology to help bring people closer together.
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Challenge #2 is now open. Lets have those ideas!
The Human Factor NESTA report gives more background info around current innovations in Health Sector
We are really keen to get as many ideas as possible - I am ceratin there is the technology as well as the desire to make this work so PLEASE send us your thoughts.
Alex Mentioned on Day Break this morning.
The Good Gym is an example of meeting two seemingly opposing needs: people's need for exercise with others need for company.. http://www.thegoodgym.org
this an interesting articlefrom AgeUK, talking about people centred housing and their culture change in the 'Home Life project in London.
There are many possibilities here.
Installing home monitoring systems is technically trivial which would enable family or support members to keep an eye on vulnerable people. Many reasonable cams these days also have inbuilt microphones and a speaker, so 2 way communications are possible.
For more complex setups, there are free monitoring applications available so many cameras can be viewed on a single screen. I am amazed that these are not already being used in hospitals, retirement homes, etc. Motion sensitive hotspots can be defined, so the system can be configured to alert if anyone opens a certain door (for example) or externally mounted so that an immobile person can get a clear, full colour image of any visitors and can speak with them without having to get up.
The technology behind this has been out for decades (CCTV, Intercom systems, etc), but there have been quantum leaps in technology over the past few years that have changed the game totally in terms of price, simplicity and functionality.
Moving beyond simple monitoring, free video conferencing software is available so anyone can have a face to face chat with anyone else for no cost other than initial setup and the price of an Internet connection.
These systems slide easily into total home-control setups in which almost any device can be monitored and controlled remotely: doors can be opened and closed, lights turned on an off, the electric fire, oven, pretty much anything. Not only can these devices be controlled, they can also be monitored and have events programmed into them, e.g. the oven can be controlled manually, put on a timer, or set to automatically switch off, or send an alert to a mobile phone (or email, etc) after X period of activity. This can be of real value for people who have a habit of leaving things on.
If a relative or carer wanted to check the status of any device (is the electric fire on at 02:00am?), then this can be done instantly over the internet.
All of this is both controllable and easily monitored from a myriad of hand held devices including mobile phone, tablet PC, etc, locally or remotely.
It gets much deeper depending on the requirement. Is this kind of idea of interest?
Many thanks for your contribution to this, and also on the first challenge.
Ideas within this area, based on the current technology which you mention, are very much of interest. Is there one of these exisiting ideas/solutions that you think is of particular benefit which we should be aiming to implement in the City (i.e. care homes, sheltered housing etc.)? Or is there a concept you can think of which uses this technology in an area not yet pursued?
We're really keen for contributors to submit a specific idea of which they're are passionate about seeing implemented. Those whose ideas are selected will be invited to play as large or small part as they want in its development.
It's difficult for me to gauge what solution is best as such as I can see so many worthy applications.
With regard to care homes, etc, as I say, I am simply amazed at how little technology I see in them. I'd have thought a camera in every room, or at least in the rooms of those most at risk would be mandatory - a nurse or carer (or indeed family) can see everyone in their care at a glance. Conversely, the same camera would allow the resident to communicate with their loved ones, face to face. The only real drawback to this that I can see would be the chance that some may use this as a replacement for actual physical visits for which there is obviously no substitute.
The motion detection can be "zoned" - predefined zones can be created and if there is movement (or lack of movement) within these, then alerts are generated. The security implications are self evident, but it's not all about security. If a person is concerned that their elderly relative may fall down the stairs, then the stairs could be monitored such that movement in this zone triggers an event. This can be fine tuned too; perhaps you don't need to be alerted every time someone uses the stairs, perhaps the alert is only justifiable if a certain threshold of movement is detected (e.g. someone falling).
In addition to this, I would be considering automation systems so that the person can perform many functions for themselves (opening curtains / blinds, operating lights, etc), ideally one would seek to empower the them as much as possible. I guess it would be a case of determining their particular desires and designing a solution around those.
Ultimately, if you can think of almost any device, then it can be controlled whether automatically, manually via remote control, or remotely over the Internet. Tablet PCs, etc are ideal for this as you could, quite literally, print a map of the house with all devices on that map, print it, overlay it on a webpad, define hotspots under the devices and then control that device by tapping the picture of it: tap the fire and it comes on, tap it again and it goes off. Turn the kettle on, etc. Once in bed, a tap of a certain icon would turn off any / all selected devices in the house so that you can be sure that the fire, oven, lights etc are off.
This is an old video, but gives a quick insight into the basic features available in a basic home / media control system. He talks a lot about media, but gets more into devices and home control 15 mins in.
Your idea of a personalised TV channel is intriguing, I've considered this. What about web-based communities? It still surprised me how little we see village networks / intranets where the local community can post information (selling stuff, services, "I'm driving into town to do some shopping, does anyone want anything picking up?" etc). This idea could be easily adapted to family / friend sites so that an elderly relative can watch TV, but there is a small menu at the side of the screen from which they can instantly call / video conference with a friend or relative should they desire some human interaction.
I love that idea of a village network or small community network - almost like an electronic notice board - you coudl advertise anything on there. Jobs, products/services for sale etc. I woudl like to explore whether the technology is available for us to create something along these lines. So rather than perhaps a total focus on connecting geographically remote families we could connect friends and neighbours.
The use of cameras in peoples' rooms/homes have all sorts of ethical issues surrounding them but there are already systems that monitor activity (Just Checking) so that individuals can be monitored safely without it being too 'Big Brother' like.
Keep the conversation going - loving the ideas it is bringing up.
The electronic notice board could be easily set up offline so to speak. I have often thought that churches and village halls have fallen behind the times here in that they could easily be installed with powerful wireless transmitters and provide a village-wide WLAN that could be used free by those living locally. A decent wifi signal can easily span a number of miles, so that anyone with a computer and a wireless network card can patch in.
At the moment I imagine that many people in rural areas are struggling to get to the shops for supplies and yet you can almost guarantee that someone from a few doors down has a 4x4 and therefore is not struggling at all. So here is a choice, everyone buys a 4x4 which is horrendous for the environment, or we could ask the minority who have them if they would help out the local community in times of need.
There's something in the British character that prevents this from happening, a certain reservation about imposing on others, but my experience tells me that people are often pleased to be asked, happy to help out.
The technology is not merely available to make this happen, it's been around since 802.11b - for well over a decade. These types of schemes have been popular in the US for some time, as well as in many developing nations, but slow to pick up in the UK. I do not believe that this is due to lack of interest, but more lack of communication (if you'll excuse the pun). I am currently working on a number of projects in rural Africa and this is exactly the kind of system I will be delivering over some long distance wireless links.
"Big Brother": you are right, there are already way too many spy cameras in the UK already, but for nursing homes, etc they still have a valid and well intended application. For domestic residences home control systems are probably more pertinent. Having said that, many elderly people I know love nature, they get real pleasure out of feeding, then watching the birds and local wildlife and perhaps here is a legitimate and non intrusive situation for monitoring systems: bird tables & boxes, even solar powered woodland-based units (I have recently completed a viability study for otter-cams in a remote woodland which will stream footage to a local farm, which in turn will become an education / awareness raising centre for local schools).
This is a subject which is very close to my heart. My Aunt Lil was 101 when she died last year and she suffered from arthritis in her joints from being in her 60s onwards. Her main problem in her later years was isolation and she simply was unable to leave her flat. She would spend long periods watching television or simply doing nothing. Like Frank she had plenty of family visits, lived in communal flats and later in life had carers visiting twice a day (who incidently all did a fantastic job), but this still left a lot of time on her own. In terms of her potential ability to use technology, she may have struggled with a computer, but had full command over the functionality on her television.
I wonder whether the emphasis on technology should be moved to the people who are likely to have and already regularly use the tools. For example, for each vulnerable person, you could have a personalised TV channel (it would be perhaps a single channel, which is configured differently for each user), which tracks a Skype like service for people who are available to call, but plays video or shows pictures that friends, family and perhaps people in the local community and schools have uploaded, if there are no people on line to talk to. The emphasis then wouldn’t be on the user to learn new technology. They would just need to use a simple TV interface.
Built into this could be community based interest themes as well. For example, the channel could be configured to pick up special interests, so if there are several people online at the same time who have an interest in say York City football club a conversation could be initiated.