Australia has an ageing population. In 1901 the average life expectancy in Australia was 47 years. By 2025 it will be over 80. In 2050, 25% of Australians will be aged over 65, with 5% over 85. This growing number of older Australians will lead to increased demand for aged services in health, social support, transport and housing.
The effects of population ageing are enduring, placing increased pressure on budgets to meet future demand. Lead Author, Professor Meg Morris, Head of School of Physiotherapy said we need to be prepared as society will not return to the young populations that our ancestors knew.
“However, the use of smart technologies can lower the demand and cost for aged care services by allowing older Australians to remain in their homes longer,” she said.
The Smart Technologies for Older People found the “new aged” such as the baby boomers, will have better financial resources and higher levels of education than previous generations. They will possess large purchasing power, be strong advocates as consumers and as patients, and will want to be fit, active, mobile, safe, connected and self reliant.
“Smart technologies can support older people by promoting independence, quality of life and wellbeing,” Professor Morris said.
Smart technologies support delivery of a range of products and services over devices such as tablets, phones, computers, TVs, virtual reality “gaming” systems, and sensor networks. Additionally, smart technologies allow for the delivery of telemedicine services to older people, prolonging the period they can remain living at home.
Monitoring and treatment of chronic diseases can be of higher quality. Rehabilitation and many health and social care services can be received in the home setting. The internet can support and strengthen the elder’s possibilities to take part in society, communicate with the healthcare system, and access social arenas.
Professor Morris said technologies, such as those used in “smart homes” or tracking solutions, could relieve the pressure on caregivers and support their caring work while administrative technology could help nurses and health professionals be more effective and do a more focused job, so more time can be dedicated to direct contact with patients and to health related tasks.
“Smart technologies are available to enhance safety, security and surveillance. Despite major investments by governments and industry partners to devise these technologies, their translation to use by older Australians has arguably been fragmented and uptake is still currently low.” Professor Morris said.
The report surveyed current literature on the use of smart technologies to support ageing across the globe and adds a valuable resource to the policy debate.
Annie Rahilly: media officer, University of Melbourne
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