How technology can be used to meet the demands of an ageing population is crucial to housing providers, local authorities, the NHS and social care providers. To promote independence, health and wellbeing, these services must understand the crucial role that technology enabled care services (TECS) can play in connecting older people and those with complex care needs, to the right support and resources.
Technology empowers people to manage their own health and has the ability to transform the lives of millions of people. TECS and the concept of a ‘connected home’ has improved many areas of modern life and provided effective support to vulnerable people of all ages.
The adoption of technology across all ages is rapidly rising, with people over 50 now embracing the benefits of it being integrated into the home. This accelerating pace of change will see the next generation of older people not only accepting, but also welcoming and expecting, the integration of TECS.
Housing providers therefore need to be informed in order to provide quality information and advice on how technology can improve lives and support vulnerable people in taking control of their own wellbeing.
The latest technologies not only predict and prevent potentially life-threatening issues such as fires or gas leaks, but they also enhance the lives of many groups of people in society. For example, enabling the use of WiFi across social housing developments, to increase contact with friends and family, reduces social isolation and gives access to online activities and services.
Technology also enables key stakeholders such as clinicians to stay connected to people with care needs through remote monitoring of an individual’s behaviour and wellbeing. This ensures that healthcare is targeted when it’s needed most, for a more person-centred and proactive approach.
Digital TECS such as community alarms and remote monitoring systems give people greater choice in terms of the care they receive. Tailored support can mitigate the effect of incidents such as falls, by recognising an emergency as soon as it occurs.
Collecting data gives insight into behaviour patterns, leading to efficient care planning as part of a strengths and assets-based approach. This predictive modelling can also alert to potential wellbeing issues, enabling more preventative support.
Housing and proposed reforms
The Government’s recently published White Paper: ‘Working together to improve health and social care for all’, sets out legislative proposals to build on the collaborations generated during the pandemic, and shape a system that's better able to serve people in a fast-changing world.
However, the vital role of social housing in influencing health outcomes has been neglected in the White Paper. In my view, this is a missed opportunity. People’s opportunities for health are influenced by factors beyond our health and social care services, and the Government must acknowledge the role of social housing in impacting the health outcomes of a significant portion of our population.
As a new Centre for Ageing Better report (opens new window) identifies, living in a home which doesn’t provide a warm, safe, and stable environment can have significant and profound impacts on the physical health mental and wellbeing of tenants. For example, cold and damp conditions are associated with a range of negative health effects, including the development and worsening of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. This of course leads to more expensive care being required, and potential hospitalisation if the problems persist or become life threatening.
In order to address housing and health inequalities and take advantage of the opportunities to help tenants stay healthy and independent for as long as possible, it requires a collaborative and holistic approach between both public and private sectors.
Working together is absolutely necessary if we are to deliver an enhanced quality of life and more independence to tenants. By understanding how housing, social care and health are already connected and facilitating greater collaboration, we can more effectively support social housing tenants at home and in their communities.
Although TECS play a fundamental part in improving outcomes for people, its inclusion is not always seen as important at conception when the health, social care and housing sectors are being developed. This is a missed opportunity to deliver a robust platform for health and care delivery, connecting people to enable more proactive and preventative care. Investment in technology solutions now will also mean we have a sustainable, scalable and collaborative network in place, should we ever have to face a healthcare crisis in future.
Looking into the future
Technology can only be harnessed through housing professionals and health and social care providers working together to form strategic decisions with a long term focus, shaping our services for the future.
As we will be reporting to the influential TAPPI Inquiry, the next generation of predictive care technology relies on integration that enables diverse and scalable models of care available in social housing. Using AI and taking data-driven insight from multiple sources, providers will use these care solutions to optimise health management programmes by providing personalised and anticipatory care.
There’s never been a more crucial time for the Government to work with housing, health and care providers to set out a new vision and commitment to creating a healthy and rejuvenated population using technology.
For more information, please visit www.tunstall.co.uk (opens new window)
And, if you found this of interest, check out other relevant resources curated by the Housing LIN on our dedicated technology enabled care and housing (TeCH) webpages at: https://www.housinglin.org.uk/TECH/
Lastly, if you would like to find out more about how the Housing LIN can support you develop your housing for older people strategic vision and/or operational plans to meet the future accommodation needs of older adults, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org