The move to digital telecare has not only vastly improved the core emergency alarm experience but has also expanded the telecare offering immensely. Digital means faster, safer and more reliable telecare than analogue. However, it also opens a much wider range of possibilities.
As an example, when we developed our digital suite, Smart Living Solutions in 2016, supporting those experiencing loneliness was high on our agenda. Consequently, we significantly enhanced the wider communication capabilities of telecare by integrating video-calling to enable housing providers to create a community feeling within their retirement developments.
We never anticipated just how important this video communication would become only a few years later. COVID-19 has forced a nation of elderly people to self-isolate. Some of the most vulnerable in our communities are not even able to see their House Manager, and often without any technology to bridge the gap.
Face to face contact is extremely important – studies have shown that at least 70% of communication is non-verbal, and research we conducted with the Good Things Foundation, found that 64% of older people agreed that seeing the face of the person they are talking to (as opposed to just hearing them) improves the conversation.
The video communication capabilities provided by us and others is enabling thousands of vulnerable individuals with the ability to maintain face-to-face contact with their friends. More importantly, staff have also been able to maintain communication, ensuring they can visually check on the wellbeing of their residents.
And for those of our customers where maintaining staff presence onsite hasn’t been possible and they have had to work from home, video communication can continue to remotely support them to keep contact with residents and monitor activity within their development.
Additionally, housing staff can utilise features such as “I’m OK” notifications remotely, so residents are able to let them know they don’t require a wellbeing check so they can prioritise appropriately. We have had almost 150 housing managers using this capability over recent weeks.
For most of us we are enormously reliant on the internet for the latest information, and to perform tasks which are now only digitally available, like some shopping. Yet large numbers of those in retirement housing don’t have access to the internet.
To help, one of the latest developments into telecare offerings is the incorporation of a Wi-Fi hotspot option into the telecare hub. Those without internet access can get online using their own devices or even via the hub itself. For many the internet will be a way to ensure that whilst we are self-isolating, we are not socially isolated.