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Technology can ease care home burdens7 Apr 2017

Research rollerskating-grannyby the BBC’s You and Yours programme has revealed that over a quarter of care homes in the UK have crippling debt. They are in danger of going bust in the next three years. This is the result of an increase in the living wage, greater demands on care homes and reduced payments from local councils.


It’s a problem which is only going to get worse. Every year the population of people over 85 increases by 90,000. In many respects this is good thing. Not only are people living longer they are healthier and happier at older ages. The idea of “four score years and ten” being a full lifetime has gone the way of men wearing top hats.


People in their seventies and eighties are now much more active than the stereotypical picture of the old couple in bath chairs. A quick google of “granny” and “zipwire” produces some impressive results. But age brings with it a decline in eyesight. Your acuity is greatest at the age of 12, from then on it’s downhill. And your hearing and dexterity also start to wane. In time age catches up with everyone.


We are happiest living in our own homes so what happens when we can’t cope? The move into assisted living and or a care home is a big step. It’s one which everyone is loath to take, not only is it an admission of not being able to support ourselves it’s crushingly expensive. That’s why, as the You & Yours investigation has found, care homes are finding it hard to make ends meet. Care home prices are going to rise and it’s a scary cost both for the state and for individuals who will see all their savings rapidly eaten away. The cost of care is means-tested which sees those who have been careful with their finances feeling punished for their prudence.


It’s far better for older people to live in their own homes for longer. A little help coming in regularly can be both a relief and a source of company, but it’s technology which can allow people to live in their own homes for longer in the most cost-effective way.


Technology is a scary word for many people. If you were born before television was common, the new models of tapping, swiping and clicking are completely alien. It’s hard for those of us brought up with computers and internet to understand how much we take for granted.


For instance look at a shirt next time you do laundry. You may see a triangle on it. What does that mean? It’s actually a symbol which means it’s okay to use bleach. But how is anyone to be expected to know that? Now extrapolate that to a technology world. Why should a circle with a line through it mean on or off? Why should an arrow to the right mean play in an age where there is no tape going round. Most children today have never seen a floppy disk yet Microsoft Word retains that as the save icon.


Technology is just becoming more confusing. So seeing it as the panacea for the crisis in the care community is, on the face of it a mistake.


But dig deeper and properly understand how older people relate to technology and it can be made to fit. This is of course the tack Fuss Free Phones takes, making mobile easy for people who don’t want the hassle of learning how to use technology. But we are not alone. The company Alcove looks at how to put smart technology in homes in a caring way. The department of engineering at the University of Cambridge is also doing a lot of work on making technology less scary and frustrating.


Technology might help reduce costs in care homes, but it has a much more relevant application in allowing people to live independent lives for longer and Fuss Free Phones is very proud to be part of that.