AgeTech is an emerging group of technologies which seeks to
improve the lives of older adults.
Our ageing population has increased the demand for support and care in older age. The Office for National Statistics reports that the 65+ population is the fastest-growing demographic in the country. By 2041, it predicts that 26.4% of the UK population will be aged 65 and over. There are growing deficits in the care sector, without a solution in sight. The restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the strain on the system. This means there is a window of opportunity for the care and ageing support sector to be reinvigorated with technological innovation.
In this time of need, AgeTech is on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic proves that technology can help support older adults, from online shopping to video calls with doctors. With the help of AgeTech, people can live not just longer, but also healthier lives. Demand is on the rise, the target audience is growing in number, and a large segment of the target customers have the means to invest in technology suited to their needs. What better recipe for a booming market?
Beyond the strong investment picture, entrepreneurs recognise that technological innovations can make people’s lives much easier. This is reflected in the growing number of devices and services that aim to aid older adults and caretakers. There has never been a better moment to get step into AgeTech.
Technology: An Essential Aid
There is a wealth of good ideas hitting the market. One company at the forefront is VitalTech. In 2018, it launched VitalBand, which offers a way to monitor falls and emergency voice callouts, as well as tracking vital signs, physical activity and sleep quality. VitalBand is a smart watch that automatically alerts emergency services or up to five specified caretakers in case of a fall. It is easy to use, which ensures that older adults receive help when they need it, whether they live on their own or in a care home.
Safety and wellbeing are of the utmost importance, both to older adults and their loved ones. There is an increasing variety of smart home devices designed for this market. For example, Canary Care offers discreet home monitoring and voice-activated smart hubs which help older adults, especially if they have difficulty walking. Smart home technology can help with basic everyday tasks as well as identifying abnormalities in gait, onset of infection and changes in cognitive functioning. There are even businesses like PillPack, which delivers medication straight to homes. This is just the beginning of what technology could do for the medical field and to extend people’s lives.
The Role of Big Data and AI
Big data and AI have come to play a significant role in healthcare. Big data allows us to gain a deeper understanding of illnesses and how to treat them, while AI has begun to detect illnesses such as eye disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Illnesses like these are being caught years earlier than they used to. Through these intelligent tools, suffering and loss of independence can be prevented and mitigated.
Speaking of independence, Intuition Robotics is developing companion technologies for older adults. The companions they offer can perform tasks like read and write messages, set reminders to take medication and schedule appointments, which could raise people’s quality of life. Technology is rapidly evolving, and Big Data and AI are proving themselves indispensable to the healthcare sector and older adults’ lives.
Tackling Social Isolation
Social isolation has been identified as a risk factor for illness and unhappiness in older adults’ lives. Research suggests that supporting older adults in engaging in an active social life can help them remain active and healthy for longer. Projects such as GoodGym now encourage this, making it possible for young people to get fit and be active while helping and socialising with isolated older adults. Innovations in technology can allow us to significantly reduce social isolation.
An increasing number of people are choosing to engage with older adults by volunteering for Age UK to bridge the gap between generations, connect young people with older adults and limit social isolation. With more tech platforms and projects that tackle social isolation appearing on the market, the risk of illness and unhappiness in older adults can be reduced.
Investing in Our Ageing Population
Not only are there new tech innovations that can help ageing and support care, there has also been an increase in funding. The Trailblazer Scheme, launched by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), provides £40 million to fund solutions that enable people to live a healthy and independent life for up to five years longer.
AgeTech is growing fast, and so is our life expectancy. Where there is demand, there will be a supply, and there is a growing demand for technology that can make older adults’ lives simpler. Technological innovations are proving to be revolutionary for older adults and for the care sector. Technology is the future, and for older adults, it is becoming an essential part of life.