It is a well-known fact that the world’s population is ageing at an alarming rate. Advances in medicine and technology mean we are all living longer, just as better contraception, increases in wealth and higher education levels are resulting in a lower birth rate. And while, of course, it is a good thing most of us can now expect to live years longer than our parents and grandparents did, this increase in the elderly population is having a frightening impact on our health and social care facilities, which will only get worse as time goes on. More elderly people in society, particularly during a period of economic turmoil, means more pressure on health and social services. Doctors’ surgeries, walk-in centres and hospitals are being overwhelmed with older patients, who naturally suffer from more ailments and illnesses due to their ageing bodies. The UK government is struggling to keep up with this increase in demand. To compound the problem, care homes in the country are closing due to lack of funds, meaning there are fewer places available for vulnerable elderly people who need to be looked after.
One of the ways these problems can be eased is through an increased use of the latest technology. Various innovations, from smartphones to lifelines, can be used to enable vulnerable elderly people to live in their homes for longer, meaning less pressure on health and social care services and a better outlook for the person involved. Most elderly people would prefer to live independently in their own homes for as long as they can, and this can be achieved successfully through a combination of in-house care and the latest technological innovations. Studies have shown that people who keep their independence in advanced old age enjoy better mental and physical health, so it is important that we start using the technology available in more creative ways to enable people to do just that.
There is now a wide range of wearable devices, smart appliances and telecare services on the market which can offer a number of helpful ways to keep a vulnerable elderly person healthy and in touch with others. Smart fridges can keep track of what food needs to be ordered, while smart medicine containers can make sure the correct medication is taken at the right time - a task many elderly people struggle with on a daily basis. There are devices which can control the lights, heating and even the curtains in a home, ensuring the elderly person is kept warm and comfortable with little effort on their part. Various technologies are available to ensure an elderly person is safe and secure, including motion detectors to track their movements, secure entrances to ensure only approved people gain access to the home, and lifelines or telecare alarms which can be pressed in the event of a fall or illness to alert a caregiver or family member. These telecare alarms and other such devices give added peace of mind to a vulnerable person’s family and friends, as well as ensuring help arrives promptly in an emergency.