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At home with technology……and with technology at home

How technology can and must support us all to live better, for longer

By Professor Roy Sandbach OBE, TAPPI Chair and former Director of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, Newcastle University

I had a conversation recently, on Twitter, with someone who desperately wants to maintain an independent life for their 91-year-old father following the crisis of a fall and hospitalisation.

He lives alone but now needs support with everyday tasks. His daughter was frustrated. No-one could provide an all-round vision of what a self-sufficient, safe, happy life looked like for someone in their nineties who wanted to stay in control, in their own home.

Technology, I believe, is key to this, especially when immediate care provision isn’t provided at pace. This man wanted to live in the house he’d known for decades, doing the hobbies he loved, surrounded by friendly neighbours and with family nearby.  His family wanted him to be happy and to be reassured on his security and safety.

Digital devices and systems can enable the freedom, choice and human connection that so many people – just like this 91-year-old – are after.

That’s why I recently chaired the Technology for our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (TAPPI) inquiry – led by the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN) and funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust.

The first phase of this project concluded in 2021, establishing ten core principles for using technology in housing and care for older people.

These practical principles should be at the heart of innovation in housing, applied whenever there is a need for digital services to enable longer, happier and more independent lives.

They are clear and simple, and I would like them to be on the table whenever technology for care and housing is discussed, especially at the operational level.

But this isn’t enough. In reality, innovation has value only when two further ingredients are in place.

The first is powerful, constructive dialogue, between committed partners who want to make change happen. The second is delivery, in which routes to bring innovation to life are tested, crafted and applied.

That’s what TAPPI2 will do. Over the next 12-15 months, the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN) will work with TEC industry and advisory body, the TEC Services Association (TSA), to test the TAPPI principles in multiple environments. 

Four housing and care organisations will become demonstrator sites and together, we’ll establish a working TAPPI Framework for Action, leveraging great ideas, positive dialogue and a plan for delivery that professionals can use.

Co-production will underpin all of this work – asking older individuals (like the 91-year-old I mentioned earlier) what technology works best for them and why.

In the meantime, I want to fast-forward 18 months to share my own “wish-list” for outcomes of the work.

  1. First, the TAPPI Framework for Action must be practically useful. A process for innovation that is user-centric, asks the right questions and has a common vocabulary that all stakeholders can engage with.

 

  1. Second, a framework is only of use if there is an effective organisational system that avoids silos and enables teamwork. I’m thinking a TEC Management Platform. Part of this will be the creation of standards to ensure quality in new, tech-enabled service models.

 

  1. Third, we must provide guidance on a Technology for Health, Housing & Care Curriculum that will work for all professionals, highlighting TEC training/education gaps across the workforce.

 

  1. Fourth, I’d love to make a start on the creation of an easy-to-access TEC Housing & Care Technology Marketplace that can be used by professionals and consumers//families/users alike. This is a serious gap.

 

I was fortunate to be able to work on TAPPI1 with a panel of skilled, highly knowledgeable experts and witnesses from across the stakeholder community. This TAPPI2 programme will also engage with committed professionals. For this reason alone, I’m optimistic that it will be a meaningful contribution to helping us all live better, longer, happier lives.

Find out more about TAPPI here

 And if you found this of interest, Roy will be speaking at Property Week’s Later Living conference in London on 23 June 2022. More about this event here.   

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