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Harnessing technologies to deliver the longevity dividend

It struck me on a recent visit to a care home that the current occupants will surely be the last generation to ‘enjoy’ a shared TV room, no internet and counting out their change to pay for their daily paper!

Given the many negative headlines about the challenges posed to society by an ageing population, it’s perhaps easy to forget the positives.

The opportunity to live longer, healthier lives – the ‘longevity dividend’ – is an exciting prospect.

For those of us who will need some form of residential care in their later years, the way that is provided in the future will also look very different to today.

It struck me on a recent visit to a care home that the current occupants will surely be the last generation to ‘enjoy’ a shared TV room, no internet and counting out their change to pay for their daily paper!

The expectations of future residents and their relatives will change in the same way those of all consumers have. Accommodation will be designed much more around the needs of the resident to enable them to have meaningful, healthy, productive later lives. Being in a care setting won’t just be for the final few years as is largely the case today, but possibly for 10 or 20 years and beyond.

Thinking of the generations in a multi-stage ‘100 year life’ instead of the ‘learn, work and retire’ model is a key message of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Longevity.

The APPG, which Gemserv sponsors, was set up earlier this year to look at how to support the Government’s aim to deliver five more years of healthy life expectancy by 2035.

Technology’s enabling role

Technology has a major enabling role to play, helping older people to continue to live as independent a life as possible, to maintain interests and hobbies, keep in contact with others and develop new friendships.

To help facilitate this, existing technologies such as Wi-Fi and ‘chatbots’ will no doubt become commonplace in care settings, but the more forward-thinking providers in the sector will also be embracing the many emerging technologies we are seeing in areas such as assisted living and health monitoring.

Although the advances are exciting there are also significant issues to consider, particularly given this is a sector which traditionally has been relatively ‘low-tech’.

Putting the resident at the heart of the design of a new facility requires a change in approach and careful consideration. Assessing new technologies, deciding how best to implement them, and ensuring compliance with regulations in areas such as data protection are all critical issues where care providers will need to work with partners to deliver maximum positive impact with minimum risk.

Building trust, particularly in a care setting, is also vital. Although technology such as wearable IoT devices to alert staff to falls or medical emergencies offers real benefits, it also raises issues around areas such as interoperability and data security.

Drawing on the experiences of other sectors in adopting new technology and benefiting from digital transformation will be important in helping the care sector deliver a step change in its approach.

At Gemserv we are already using our deep experience in the energy and defence industries to help the wider healthcare and social services sectors deliver a more integrated, joined-up approach to support patients.

The care providers able to work with expert partners to find the most efficient and secure ways to harness technology will not only help those in their care make the most of their later years but will ensure a competitive advantage and the opportunity to secure long-term revenues.

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