The bottom line:
- Supportive technology is giving seniors more choices as they age.
- Assistive tech is more challenging to implement in nursing than private homes due to certain barriers to their implementation.
- Supportive tech reduces the need for human care, but if implemented correctly, it also helps reduce isolation.
Historically, nursing home care has been the natural next step for senior citizens in need of assistance as they age.
With approximately 32,000 Irish residents currently living in nursing homes around the country, it’s clear that they are still in demand. But perhaps more interesting is the increasing number deciding to age in the comfort of their homes rather than opting for the expense and upheaval of moving into a care facility.
Of course, staying at home, or “ageing in place”, has become easier than ever as assistive technology becomes a normal part of everyday life. With technology developing at breakneck speed in Ireland, it now helps seniors do it all, whether cooking and cleaning or helping with reading and making calls to loved ones. Thanks to these benefits, technology can create a new level of freedom and independence for seniors who would otherwise be reliant on human care to remain at home in safety.
As we head into 2022, we can confidently say that assistive technology is here to stay. With its proven efficiency and ease of use, it could easily become an alternative to traditional nursing home care.
What exactly is assistive technology?
Assistive technology may sound like jargon, but in a nutshell, it can be any device or software that assists with day-to-day life and helps older people keep hold of their independence in the comfort of their homes.
As technology has grown more efficient and more advanced, it has given people new freedom and a new comfort knowing that they can choose assistive devices to meet a range of needs, giving them an alternative to nursing home care. Here are just a few examples of how such beneficial technology can help:
· Daily chores
· Mobility aids
· Cognitive aids
· Voice recognition & other software
to help the visually impaired or less mobile by reading messages or enlarging the text.
Of course, these are just a few examples. You can read more about assistive technology here.
But can’t supportive technology be used in nursing homes?
It can, but its use is far more limited than in private homes due to specific barriers stopping care homes from investing in such tech. These include:
The needs of residents.
As ageing affects us all differently, a care home may need to invest in a vast variety of tech to meet the needs of all its residents. While some may benefit from cognitive aids, others may require mobility aids. As such, to ensure everyone is catered for equally, nursing homes may have a significant investment to make.
What’s more, there’s the issue of funding. Nursing homes may have funds to cover assisting their residents, but once the staff, facilities, food and other needs are met, there may be little left to cover tech. The same goes for the residents themselves who, forking out large sums per month for their place in the home, may not have much left for additional assistance.
Regulatory processes simply aren’t keeping pace with technological advances. This means that though the latest technology may be effective, cost-efficient and implementable, the codes, regulations and best practices required for nursing home care may simply take time to be met, meaning that the technology available for these settings is always a few years behind.
Lack of information and fear.
From experience with tech to information about what new (and even not-so-new) technology can do, there’s a lack of information surrounding assistive tech for seniors. This makes it harder to find, purchase and implement for care providers. What’s more, there’s a fear on both sides that tech may replace human care at some point down the line. This makes care providers less keen to implement it, and seniors less eager to accept it, believing it may increase their isolation by decreasing their human contact.
Here at ageing in place, we aim to reduce this fear by providing accurate information about all things ageing in place, removing the concern surrounding ageing and providing information about solutions that can help seniors age in comfort while maintaining their independence. When implemented correctly, supportive tech for seniors reduces isolation, boosts independence and keeps a senior more connected, not less, allowing them to get the exact level of care they need when they need it.
Ageing in place in Ireland
The number of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland aged 85+ is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades. To give some perspective, there were 73,000 in the Republic of Ireland aged over 85 in 2019. This number is expected to reach as high as 301,000 by 2051.
As the ageing population grows thanks to increased life expectancy, it will become more important for citizens to have that crucial choice between nursing home care and staying at home – the latter of with is made easier thanks to assistive tech, which reduces the pressure on carers, increases safety and boosts connections to the outside world.
Nursing homes vs assistive technology
Ultimately this newfound freedom to use devices and new inventions as opposed to packing up and moving into a home is an undeniably positive outcome for the elderly everywhere. This is not to say that traditional nursing home care will disappear – there are over 400 nursing homes currently dotted around Ireland which are still a valuable asset to the community.
What the growth of assistive tech really means is that residents are provided with a choice. A choice to remain at home if they wish and to face the possibility of going into a nursing home only when they feel ready and happy to do so.
As seniors make these important decisions for their later years, they can do so with their own free will. And we can all agree that the freedom of choice makes for a more content future.
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