Is plowing money into aged care facilities really a productive use of government funding? Possibly not, given that 80% of Australians aged 65 and over live independently. So how can technology assist with the ageing-in-place preference of those old enough to know their own minds?
Not withstanding the need for residential aged care places, new technology is paving the way for people to remain in their own homes and still have access to round-the-clock assistance. Technologies for elder-friendly housing feature communication equipment to provide personal health monitoring, telehealth, shopping and education. Just as important as these practical care methods, is the need for those ageing at home to feel socially included.
There is the ability to install such assisted-living technologies in existing homes but consideration must be given to the design of future dwellings and the incorporation of such technologies to cater for the lifelong needs of Australia’s ageing population.
The longer-term economic benefits of moving towards technology driven support for those remaining at home cannot be ignored. Technology which can monitor the health needs of several individuals at once, triggering support as and when required, will be more cost and time effective than a full-time health care professional. A move from fall detection to fall prevention will ultimately reduce hospital admissions and associated surgeries and after-care, freeing up resources in an already heavily burdened health service.
Coupled with the projected shortage of health care professionals, technological solutions need to be explored to ensure that the health and social needs of Australia’s future ageing population are met within a cost-effective and time-sensitive framework. Such exploration should consider the allocation of funds for aged care places versus an investment in ways of allowing older citizens to remain in their own homes for as long as they wish.