New Technology Tackles Ageing Population

Pioneering technology to empower elderly and disabled people to live independently has been developed by Technabling - a spinout company of the University of Aberdeen - in partnership with Cornerstone. The technology could help tackle major care issues caused by a worldwide ageing population, and was presented today at the British Science Festival - being hosted in Aberdeen until  September 9. 

The first of its kind in the world, the CaringAide software system detects when unusual behaviour or hazardous circumstances have occurred in a person's home. 

A version of CaringAide called the Invisible Neighbour, which is equipped with functionalities to support independent life for frail and vulnerable people has also been developed in partnership with Scottish housing association Langstane. 

Dr Ernesto Compatangelo, Lecturer in Computing Science at the University of Aberdeen, and founder and Director of Technabling said: "The technology aims to prevent emergency situations that could take place in the home of an elderly person who is living independently, by providing an early warning about a potential problem days or weeks before it could become critical." 

The system uses a network of sensors placed throughout a person's home; these detect factors such as activities, movement, sound, temperature, humidity, opening and closing of doors and windows, usage of appliances. 

The information generated by the sensors is fed into a small computerised hub which dynamically builds patterns of the person's day to day routine and of the way the living environment is used. 

If abnormal conditions or events occur either in the person's pattern of behaviour or in the living environment, an electronic message is sent to a remote care centre - which is staffed by professional carers around the clock - for further assessment.  If immediate action needs to be taken the person's care contact or network of support is then alerted.

 

A computerised infrastructure linked to internet cameras - which protect privacy by processing images making use of multiple encryption and security technologies so that these  are not accessible or visible by anybody - can also be used as part of the system which is tailored towards the needs of the individual user."

 

The system is currently installed and is being trialled in various flats located in Aberdeen and in the north east of Scotland, with human triallers permanently living there.

 

Dr Compatangelo added: "Government figures predict an aging population combined with a rise in fragmented families, more people living alone, people living longer but not necessarily in the best of health, more chronic disease and mental illness and increasing health inequalities.

"All of this amounts to a 'care tsunami' - where are all the people who are going to look after this future population? This technology aims to help tackle this impending challenge." 

Our Chief Executive Edel Harris said, "Cornerstone is currently trialling CaringAide at our housing support service in Maud, Aberdeenshire, which is home to six people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. As well as the science and technology expertise the University of Aberdeen has contributed, Cornerstone has been able to offer vital insight and knowledge of providing care and the negative perceptions or concerns that regulators, families and the people we support often have when assistive technology is being introduced for the first time. 

"CaringAide differs from other telecare products on the market in that it learns behaviour and then alerts care staff if there is a major difference in usual patterns, so in this context, far from being intrusive, the technology can enable users to live more independently."
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