How innovation and technology could change aged care

Virtual reality and other innovations could change life for the better in aged care facilities.

We hear all the time about the latest innovations and technologies that are making our lives easier.

But we don’t hear much about how they’re being used in aged care facilities to make those last few years of our life enjoyable.

It’s a subject that’s prompted plenty of conversation among online forums and blogs about how technology and innovation could change aged care for the better.

Blogger and CX design specialist Tom Uhlhorn is among those who has written on the subject.

He believes there is a need for a diverse range of innovations to make living in an aged care facility simpler and more enjoyable.

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Referring to the Internet of Things, the concept of having everything in our homes connected to the Internet, Uhlhorn explains how technology and innovation can make us excited about aged care.

“Investing in the Internet of Things for aged care facilities will create a better environment that stimulates mental health, is optimised to and measures an individual’s physical health, and allows for greater social interaction,” Uhlhorn said.

“Currently, residents of most aged-care facilities are receive meals, bathing, recreation, and health care services on the facility’s schedule. The rise of smart home and wearable technologies means that tailored service schedules to suit a residents’ personal needs can now be efficiently implemented.

“Basic things such as planning breakfast around sleeping habits and alerting staff when medical attention is required are not that hard to imagine. More advanced applications could include designing flexible living environments that are engineered to suit individual residents’ needs; or creating automated services such as cooking and personal care that allow residents to maintain a level of independence.”

Innovation and technology wouldn’t just allow for more independent living in aged care facilities, it could also drive greater social interaction for residents who aren’t wheelchair or bed bound.

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We’ve all seen the sad sight of aged care residents who lay in a bed and don’t speak, but with the rise of technology comes new ways for them to communicate and be mobile.

Uhlhorn’s blog takes a look at the rise of virtual reality and 360 degree videos and photos on Facebook, and how it can improve social interaction using virtual reality.

“Using this technology could create a whole new environment of “virtual mobility” that would provide residents with the kind of freedom and joy that daytime TV just can’t match,” he said.

“It’s not that hard to imagine the next generation of video calls as VR calls too, where it feels like residents and their families are talking face-to-face.

“A stretch of the technology also could mean that patients with mental health or motor skills problems that inhibit their ability to communicate could do so via electronic means.”

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And it goes even further beyond that!

Innovation could create a much needed sense of purpose and meaning for aged care residents, giving them an opportunity to still contribute to society in their own world.

“In this age of ever-expanding access to information, there is an opportunity for retirees to devote their time and extensive experience to a range of problems communities around the world are facing,” Uhlhorn said.

“Whether it’s assisting in literature reviews, analysing big data sets, or simply providing a perspective on problems that they either can relate to or have experience with; our elders are arguably the best collective resource available for a lot of local, national, and global problems.

“The best part is that we don’t need to invest in extensive libraries to provide the required information any more; we just need to tailor the accessibility of the information and the delivery of residents’ responses to suit their needs.”

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The exciting part is a lot of these innovations and technologies are within our grasp.

As Uhlhorn puts it, taking these innovations and technologies and investing in them for age care could revolutionise the way we perceive aged care and ageing.

“Aged care is a fascinating industry and the current market growth is attracting a significant amount of investment,” he said.

“Let’s take some of that investment and turn it into reinventing the industry and making it enjoyable for the residents and their families.”

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What do you think about bringing more innovation and technology to aged care? What would you like to see in aged care facilities?