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How can smart technologies meet the demand of an ageing population?

The increase in the proportion of older people has been described as “one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century” (United Nations, 2015), with huge implications for government health and social care budgets. Our research for the Dunhill Medical Trust, which starts in October 2019, will collect data about 'smart' home technologies in order to understand how these innovations support wellbeing and independent living.

Technological developments may help to meet the challenge of an ageing population through products and services which assist older people to live independently in their own homes: ‘smart' homes with embedded third generation telecare technologies may allow older people to ‘age in place’ and enjoy higher quality of life, rather than having to move to residential care.

There are potential benefits of enabling older people to ‘age in place’. Most older people prefer to grow old within their own home because it provides them with a sense of independence, security, privacy and comfort, which may be beneficial for their wellbeing and quality of life. There are of course financial benefits of enabling older people to remain in their own homes, as this is far more cost-effective than funding residential or nursing care.

However, there is little evidence of how they are used and if and how they help older people to live well independently and enjoy a higher quality of life. The aim of this study is to fill this gap by collecting data about how these 'smart' home technologies are used by older people, and to determine what outcomes can be achieved in terms of improved wellbeing and successful independent living. In addition to a desk based review, we will conduct interviews with 'smart' home and technology providers, and with private and public sector stakeholders. A key part of the research will be case studies of housing where residents live in 'smart' housing an/or use telecare or telehealth technologies, including interviews with older people, their family members and care staff.

The research will help us to determine how such technologies could be improved or used more widely, and how they can be successfully embedded within peoples’ homes to best meet the complex and diverse needs of an ageing population.

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Project Start Date

October 2019