Looking after the future: responding to the challenge of an ageing population

Anthony McCauley
By , - InnovationHealthcare

Looking after an ageing population can be difficult.

One of the biggest challenges with caring for older people is that they want to remain in familiar surroundings. Once they go into a nursing home, their decline can often be marked, and they decline because they lose their independence and social interaction.

It also costs a lot to care for those people once they’re in hospital or a nursing home. It can cost as much as a thousand pounds a day. If current trends continue, spending on healthcare for the elderly could need to increase by 120% by 2030[1]. Bearing in mind that the current healthcare budget for the UK alone is already £120bn, that’s clearly unsustainable.

Japan is facing a similar issue, and we’ve been able to look at some of the tactics employed there and think about how we can use them here, too. You can see a lot of that in our partnership with the Centre for Affective Solutions for Ambient Living Awareness – or CASALA for short. CASALA is a research organisation that works with companies like Fujitsu to build care homes like those found at Great Northern Haven.

At Great Northern Haven, we use non-intrusive, easy to use technology to monitor the wellbeing of the residents. Sensors can measure sleep patterns and monitor mobility within an apartment, providing carers with a clear view of the likely health of a resident. iPads are used to provide simple environmental controls.

The apartments offer safe and secure homes that allow residents to be looked after in the best way, without needing constant care or having to give up their independence.

As the years go by, I think we’ll begin to see other initiatives like CASALA springing up around the UK and Ireland, simply because they have to. A crisis is coming in terms of an ageing population, and we need to deal with that in a proactive way.

I think it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t just about the cost implication (though that remains an important consideration). Keeping people in surroundings that they’re comfortable with has a dramatic effect on their quality of life, too.

One of the great things about initiatives like CASALA is that we’re still in the early days of how this technology functions. The technology we use today will become smarter, more effective and more efficient, and the form factor will continue to improve until it’s incredibly well integrated with our daily lives.

You only need to look at some of the advances in wearable technology to imagine how health monitoring could begin to change over the next decade.

It’s vitally important for companies like ours to be involved in these initiatives, as they give us a great way to help tackle some of these massive societal challenges. At the same time, it means a lot to me personally, too. We all get old, and it means a lot to be able to do something that can have such a profoundly positive impact on the wellbeing and latter stages of someone’s life. It’s genuinely about how we can make life better for those people.


[1] “Projections of Demand for and Costs of Social Care for Older People in England, 2010 to 2030, under Current and Alternative Funding Systems”: Personal Social Services Research Unit, The University of Kent / London School of Economics, December 2011

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Photograph by alice-llp

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