The ten provocations about innovation in Ageing Better throw up the challenges of using digital technology for well-being - now Tony Watts has a compelling solution: integrate personalised digital healthcare with action to help older people use technology and the internet.
An EU-funded study encompassing Italy and South West England has just demonstrated the significant health benefits of social media for older people. At the report launch in Italy, Tony Watts, a writer and chair of the SouthWest Forum on Ageing, gave one of the keynote presentations. In a précis of his presentation, Tony argues that:
Older people have been under-sold the benefits of the Internet because courses and centres still offer clunky computers. Simpler touch-screen tablets or smart TVs open up the online world of opportunities and connections with friends and family.
Digital healthcare, tailored to the individual, can monitor conditions, connect with carers and health services, help people stay in their homes, and reduce costs.
Tony has now been asked to chair a Community Interest Company In the South West of England developing a “digital healthcare cluster” – made up of innovators, universities, researchers and older people themselves. From its home at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory it will “showcase solutions and make sure we plug straight in to a technology that will be the big game changer in the next few decades”.
"My vision, and that shared by a rapidly growing number of people, is to equip every older person’s home that requires it with a piece of equipment – a tablet or smart TV – that enables them to connect with their doctor or health visitor through Skype.
"Moreover, this equipment is fed by sensors that enable their vital signs… blood sugar or oxygen level, heart rate, temperature… constantly monitored, with any alerts being sent to a network of carers… family and neighbours possibly as well as their hospital or doctor.
"Their whole living environment could also be monitored – the room temperature, whether or not they had remembered to turn off the oven, whether they have gone out of the home, or got out of bed, opened the fridge that morning to get food…
"As their needs change, or technology advances, new apps can be loaded. It evolves with THEIR needs.
"Subtly, unintrusively, cost effectively, their condition can be constantly monitored and interventions rapidly organized. Monitoring also has to be possible outside of the home in the form of wearable technology – otherwise we simply become prisoners in our own homes.
"Just as importantly, the dual technology can be used to encourage and enable older people to actively monitor their own wellbeing… and do something about it.
In the South West of England where I live and work, we have developed a “digital healthcare cluster” – made up of innovators, universities, researchers and older people themselves. Our home is at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory where we can showcase our solutions and make sure we plug straight in to a technology that will be the big game changer in the next few decades".
- Integrating digital inclusion and digital healthcare by Tony Watts
Tony’s paper.li newsletter Later Life AGEnda
- Exploration: Innovation in Ageing Better