The future of age-friendly technologies
Digital home health has arrived on our doorstep, with more and more products being developed for this growing sector. Dimi Kyriakou profiles what to expect in the future of age-friendly technologies.
You’ve heard it all before: the Australian population as we know it today will change dramatically in the future.
As the ‘baby boomers’ grow older, the younger generations will dwindle in comparison. It will come to the point where the number of people over the age of 65 will double in the next 30 years, while those over the age of 85 will quadruple.
This is exactly why custom installers must be aware of the issue at hand and prepare for the growing role that digital health will play in the future of home automation.
In fact, there are some products that are already being introduced to the Australian home health market – including one that made its debut at designEx 2011 in Melbourne.
EasyStep transforms from a set of stairs into a platform lift at the touch of a button, providing easy and safe access to an upper or lower level.
“The EasyStep is a safe and economical solution to overcome accessibility requirements in both residential and commercial buildings. It’s an easy to operate platform lift solution for vertical rises up to one metre,” Easy Living Home Elevators national marketing manager Dijana Vojvodic says.
Designed for both indoor and outdoor use, this lift takes up no more floor space than a normal set of stairs – making it easy to incorporate into new and existing projects.
“It is a free-standing design that does not need to be installed against a load bearing wall, allowing a wider choice
in positioning the lift,” she says.
“It definitely presents an opportunity for installers to expand their business into the home health technology market. We’re targeting the ageing population so they don’t have to move out of their home when they get older – it’s a cheaper option and provides that ‘wow’ factor as well.”
On the horizon
While the EasyStep is already being installed into many Australian homes, pubs and clubs, there are some interesting developments being made overseas that we can expect to see in the local market in future.
One American company interested in launching its technology internationally is Halo Monitoring. If a senior falls while wearing its myHalo Senior Monitoring device, a wireless signal will be sent to the base station which will then contact a help centre, family or caregivers.
“It can summon help quickly to avoid leaving a senior on the floor for long periods of time, which can increase injuries and eventually threaten their independence. Basically it offers much more than a typical panic button,” HealthTech officer Mike Burns says.
On top of this, myHalo also features remote monitoring including heart rate and skin temperature, as well as sleep and wake patterns and activities. It can also alert caregivers when the battery is low, if the device is not being worn or if the user is out of range.
“Halo’s installers need to provide product education to the user. This is a new technology for most seniors (installed through a regular phone line or internet) and they need to know how to handle the unit to avoid false alarms.”
In addition, the Presto Printing Mailbox lets those who don’t use a computer or the internet to receive emails and photos. It plugs into a regular phone line and power outlet, and will automatically print any new messages in the Presto Mail Service in colour, with photo attachments displayed.
Presto chief executive Peter Radsliff says this all happens automatically – the senior doesn’t have to remember to log onto a computer, check their email or open an attachment.
“Presto is hassle free and doesn’t require a family member to coach someone through sending and receiving email over the phone. Best of all, it’s very simple, which is why seniors love it,” he says.
One of the interesting things about this product is that is also allows the senior to handwrite a reply to the email, scan it and then send it to a recipient – the scanned document will then be available as an attachment in the recipient’s email inbox.
“The days of the custom installation business being solely focused on entertainment products is rapidly diminishing. Including technologies that help us age safely in our own homes is just too large of a growth business to ignore,” Peter says.
“The Presto solution acts as a bridge between the worlds of entertainment and care giving technologies; most importantly providing a door-opener for installers to start the discussion of a whole class of new products.”
Easy Living Home Elevators