At a major international conference held in Leeds 8-9 April 2014, the final conference of the Aktive project outlined its findings for the UK’s assisted living sector. The project focused upon understanding the needs of the user in terms of future product design and service provision.
Funded by the Technology Strategy Board’s Assisted Living Innovation Platform between2011-2014, the project consortium brought together the Universities of Leeds & Oxford with Inventya Ltd and Tunstall Healthcare (UK) Ltd. Researchers carried out ‘everyday life analysis’ with 60 older people,frail and prone to falls or memory problems. The research team also interviewed informal carers and relatives, neighbours, care workers, telecare manufacturers, and service providers and commissioners.
At its heart, the Aktive project focused upon better knowledge & understanding of individual needs, and how telecare products & services can be designed and installed to optimise those needs. Elderly participants recognised that telecare helped them to hold onto highly valued aspects of their lives, and to preserve their character as an active, independent or capable person by retaining a sense of self and confidence. As part of a wider support network, telecare gave users the confidence to try new activities that they previously found difficult.
Positive impacts of telecare reported by older people included feeling safer and more connected to others, a greater sense of confidence to self-manage many aspects of their own care, and strengthening their ties with friends & neighbours. Commonly-reported frustrations included poorly-explained equipment demonstrations or training, lack of timeliness with re-assessments and installations, and lack of transparency for the cost implications of telecare provision.
Missed opportunities to achieve better outcomes are particularly relevant to product and service providers. Monitoring centres could offer richer support services for those who are often isolated, grieving and lonely. Equipment installation and training/familiarisation should include co-resident and other carers since they are better able to support the older person and ensure full adoption of new technologies. A holistic approach to needs assessment would not only ensure that an appropriate mix of assistive technologies are tailored to each users’ needs, but that consultation with each individual and their ‘caring network’ should be the standard default approach.
Key conclusions of the Aktive project include
- Telecare & assistive technologies are not interventions, but tools for living
- Telecare services should focus upon timeliness & support, with a clear aim to enable independent living
- Older people will reject telecare & other assistive technologies if it is not appropriate, or perceived to be appropriate, to their specific needs
Sue Yeandle, project Director and Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds said: “Aktive’s research clearly demonstrates that more needs to be done by health and wellbeing boards to make full use of telecare which can have a positive effect on the lives of older people. But so much more could be achieved if telecare was integrated into campaigns around health and social care.”
Also view presentations & video clips at www.aktive.org.uk/conference2014.html