How will you spend your golden years? Image: Flickr / Smitty
By Emily Lehmann
Have you thought much about retirement? Do you think about long days on the beach, or picking tomatoes in the garden, or lounging on the back deck with a J.K. Rowling novel? Or was it Hilary Mantel? Whatever your dreams, it’s fair to say most people see themselves spending that time in their own home, their independence assured.
The reality can be markedly different. As we age, or as a result of disease, daily tasks can become increasingly difficult, putting our health and safety at risk. And our independence.
To help the elderly and those living with a disability stay at home for longer, we’ve come up with a sensor-based care system that allows carers to keep an eye on their loved ones.
For Sunshine Coast resident Eleanor Horton, our Smarter Safer Homes technology has been a massive help in caring for her husband Patrick who suffered a severe stroke 15 years ago.
The stroke greatly affected his mobility – he gets around using a stick and a splint – and left him with only one working arm.
Using the technology, Eleanor can monitor Patrick’s health and safety while at work or away from home. It has meant she can continue her job as a senior lecturer at the Sunshine Coast University and juggle visits to her now elderly parents.
The technology uses motion and heat sensors to subtly and non-invasively track Patrick’s movements. It can detect, for example, whether he rose from bed at the usual time, how much he’s moved around that day, falls or slips, or if the oven has been left on.
It also collects critical disease-specific health information, can potentially alert carers to emergencies and allows Patrick and Eleanor to stay connected online.
Eleanor Horton and director of our e-Health research, David Hansen with the app.
The Hortons are one of five Queensland households participating in a trial of the technology we’re undertaking in partnership with Global Community Resourcing and Bromilow Home Support Services.
So far the results have been promising, and we’re hoping to roll out the technology into hundreds more homes.
With Australia’s ageing population, this type of technology could become a standard feature in home care services of the future, as a cost-effective way of easing pressure on aged care facilities and wider healthcare system.
It could help ease pressure on the healthcare system by reducing hospitalisation and regular visits to the clinic for the monitoring of chronic disease, while enhancing the lives of patients and their carers.
Read more about our Smarter Safer Homes technology.
We’re also working on other measures to help sufferers manage chronic disease at home, including telehealth: