Technology is fostering independence in old age

I feel very strongly that an older person, despite some ill health and disability, has the right to have their independence respected.

In our ­increasingly high-tech world, technology can further that aim. And the UK is committed to helping people live independently for longer and ­encourages innovation to bring it about.

It turns out we could save £100billion on social care over the next 15 years with better, earlier diagnosis and the clever use of technology. In one example, the Alzheimer’s Society is funding the development of clever new technology products through the Dementia Research Institute.

We must invest otherwise hundreds of thousands of families will be left to cope alone, without the resources they need.

The £26billion spent each year on dementia care in the UK could be significantly reduced if the symptoms of the disease were delayed by five years, says the ­Alzheimer’s Society. This would enable people to retain their independence and stay in the family home.

To further this goal, the £98million government-funded healthy ageing programme is sponsoring competitions to encourage new ideas for products, services and business models to help us all – both those with dementia and those without – live healthier, happier and more independent lives as we age.

The projects will have to show that they tackle the challenges of older life including “living well with cognitive impairment”.

A company called Unforgettable was set up four years ago by James Ashwell to provide products to help people with dementia. He’d been looking after his mother after she developed young-onset dementia and had struggled to find products to help her live independently. His first item was a two-in-one calendar and day clock, which is still one of the ­company’s best-sellers.

An easy-to-read typeface allows the level of information to be adjusted as a person’s dementia progresses, and preset reminders tell people with dementia when their meal times are imminent, give them a schedule for taking medication and remind them when their favourite television programmes are about to start.

And many more clever aids are on the way. In June 2019, Unforgettable was acquired by Live Better With, a company that aims to improve the day-to-day life of people living with long-term health problems.

Live Better With recently introduced its Canary Care Home Monitoring System, designed to alert carers to fridge, kettle, tap and late-night door use in the home of a person with a dementia. It doesn’t invade privacy because it doesn’t use a camera.

We’re getting there.