Smart Ageing in the Connected World

We want to understand the changes ageing brings and how we can maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible, retaining our independence using both tried and tested and innovative products. We cannot bear the thought of accepting the status quo for the frail in the UK; an uncomfortable mix of vulnerability, complexity, and high cost as highlighted recently by the King’s Fund.  So please join us and join in on this journey of Smart Ageing.

Exercise and diet are the staple lifestyle choices to control to promote health and wellbeing, but these are the same messages we’ve heard for the past decades.  What has changed during those decades is not the human condition but the amazing technology that surrounds us and impacts every aspect of modern life.  So as we look at the problems ageing throws into our path we will be looking at a range of solutions for modern ageing from lo-tech to hi-tech.  We will also be looking at our digital health, so that our online affairs are in good shape and not another worry. Let’s begin with a summary of ageing and some of the topics we’ll be looking at in more detail in the future.

Obviously ageing is the entire journey from birth to death; here we are mainly interested in the period before the onset of frailty, which cannot be rigidly defined by a biological age but we will describe the that time when we put ourselves at risk when trying to look after ourselves and personal care in the home is required.  The reality in the UK is that about 40% of people in England are currently fully self-funding their personal care so it makes sense to delay the need for personal care for as long as possible.  While it makes sense to use all the existing approaches we also want to explore the support offered by products that connect to the internet or claim to be intelligent or smart in some way, for example:

  • Connected thermostats & heating controls
  • Smart monitoring systems
  • Automated lighting
  • Voice assistants

Don’t worry if you aren’t clear what a connected thermostat is, or get confused between your SSID and the IoT, we will be explaining all in plain English.

While we will be assuming that to read this blog you are online already, we will also be looking at getting online for the first time.  Perhaps you know someone who is suddenly finding it difficult to get to the shops and would benefit from delivery, but isn’t online so cannot use ?  We will be offering some thought on where they should  start and the support they may they need.

The effects of ageing before frailty read like a litany of things none of us want, for example

  • deterioration in eyesight
  • hearing loss
  • need to stop driving
  • reduced personal mobility
  • increased falls
  • memory problems
  • confusion
  • social isolation

These conditions have not changed but in the last decade numerous products have emerged that can help with these and other effects of ageing.  However, to be provided by health and social services, products need to have demonstrated their effectiveness during randomised trials.  It’s the same for a tablet with a Skype camera as for a sinus tablet – so it is unlikely the benefits of modern consumer technology will be delivered formally any time soon.  But as many people have to pay for their own care, there is much greater freedom to use technology appropriate to your circumstances and we are here to help you find it and get the best out of it!

There are also plus sides to entering the golden years of retirement: freedom from the daily grind; increased time to pursue interests, possibly including travel.  We think that as well as enjoying the now, some time spent preparing for the future will be well spent.  For example:

  • Care Plan
    • Think through the options for care in later life, before you become frail, decide on what you would like
    • Recognise the financial implications for the future, invest some money in delaying frailty
    • Have those difficult conversations with loved ones and family sooner, so they can follow your wishes if you are unable to express them.
  • Physical Health
    • Review and track your diet and activity
    • Review your home and ensure it is safe (smoke alarms fitted etc)
    • If planning to stay in your current home for as long as possible, consider your needs as you age when planning maintenance, eg a wet-room or walk in shower
    • If planning to move, take stock of your likely future needs to inform your decision.
  • Digital Health
    • Managing multiple remote controls
    • Organise your photos and other important files
    • Control the deluge of information from social media
    • Backup your important information and favourite pictures
    • Keep track of your online accounts and passwords
    • Know how to stay safe online
  • Mental Wellbeing
    • Grow accustomed to online contact as well as physical meetings so you can stay in touch for as long as possible
    • Take advantage of calendars and planners
    • Keep learning and playing

The good news is that we will be covering these topics and more in detail here at Smart Ageing.  What is more we will also be looking at the range of new connected products which promise to take assistance to new levels,

We’d also love to hear your views and understand the issues you are grappling with where modern technology could help, and if you have a favourite device or online tool that has helped you or a loved one cope with ageing, please do get in touch.

Image used under a creative commons licence