Friday, 11 January 2013

The pros and cons of ambient assisted living

Ambient Assisted Living

A topic long discussed among experts but not in mainstream media made it into last week's edition of Die Zeit, one of the major newspapers in Germany, in an article entitled "Der unsichtbare Pfleger" (the invisible carer). What are the pros and cons of AAL and how could this benefit all generations?

“The Invisible Carer”

With the aim of reducing time spent in hospitals and care homes, the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research invested 45 million Euros in AAL projects; hoping to save 87 billion Euros if millions of older people in Germany were to make use of this technology.

But how to improve quality of life for older people and their carers while saving money at the same time? The researchers piloted jackets that automatically call the ambulance when you suffer a heart attack, computer games which encourage stroke patients to be physically active and mobility sensors in the whole flat, for example, sensors on windows, humidity sensors in the shower and sensors on the fridge.

Despite huge successes and the clear economic benefit, Ambient Assisted Living devices have still not made it into DIY markets. Birgit Wilkes, a telematic’s professor identified one of the main problems, “engineers are developing great things, but often have little knowledge of older people’s needs.”

On top of this, the engineering part of AAL is not sufficiently linked with professionals in the health sector. Investment in shiny technology is being prioritized at the expense of in-depth field research. To secure research funding projects need to be focused on innovation and research instead of looking into sustainable, user-friendly and realistic solutions.

How to make the ‘invisible carer’ bring visible benefits?

Maybe one should look at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where assistive devices to monitor your own and your family’s health are emerging as big themes.

Why isn’t it possible to transmit the data collected in my older relative’s flat to my smartphone app or for those without smartphone, via SMS? This could include features similar to FaceTime, iMessage and Siri into the technology that already exists in an AAL-equipped flat. We should be able to do more with existing technology than just keep in touch.

Why shouldn’t I be able to check to see why the fridge hasn’t been opened for two days, if I can’t be around? This approach won’t only benefit older people; it can help everyone. Wouldn’t this make it a real intergenerational endeavour and not only help older people age independently and as healthy as possible but also make all generations aware of their own health and how we/they should nourish it to be able to age actively?

Ina Voelcker

No comments:

Post a Comment