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Smart Care trend series: Part 1 – Digital assistance systems for senior citizens

5. September 2018 Published by Raphael Doerr

In this new blog series, we want to provide you with information on the subject of smart care and help you choose the right solution so that you know what to look out for when buying one, where trends in this market are headed, and how we can also continue to support you with our new Gigaset Smart Care solutions.

What does smart care mean?

Smart care denotes intelligent products and solutions that help you look after yourself better. When we use the term “care” in connection with our new Smart Care solutions, we always do so to describe an interpersonal process and mean the ability to put yourself into the shoes of seniors and empathize with their individual experience and needs.

Now you may well ask what the purpose of that is. It’s to give elderly people living alone security and so enhance their quality of life a little. To enable that, we use the latest communication solutions, sensor-based “smart assistance systems” that automatically notify not only senior citizens, but above all their relatives.

The focus here is on situational communication. We offer special services and apps so that relatives are also kept informed anywhere and at all times. For this we have developed our own cloud platform “Made in Germany” so that the data is protected securely.

We have already taken a major step in this direction with our Smart Home solutions. Since the end of 2015, we have tackled the question of how we can also expand our Smart Home scenarios towards smart care to be able to offer special communications solutions for the elderly and their relatives.

We are now offering Gigaset smart care for the first time, an intelligent senior citizens assistance system “Made in Germany.”

Prevention is better than having to be cared for

According to the German Federal Statistical Office, every one-in-three Germans will be aged 65 and above by the year 2060. While 16.7 million Germans were 65 and older in 2008, that figure will rise to 22.3 million by 2030 – or a third (33 percent) of the total population (source: German Federal Statistical Office).

It is forecast that up to 3.4 million people in Bavaria alone will need care in 2030. Care denotes support and assistance for people who have only a limited ability to look after themselves. The number of people in need of care in Germany at the end of 2015 was 2.86 million, of whom almost a third were fully resident in nursing homes. Most of them are older than 60. There are currently around 14,000 nursing homes in Germany.

So you don’t need to be a clairvoyant to see that a place in one of them will be almost more difficult to obtain than a kindergarten place in the future. Moreover, care institutions are expensive and many seniors won’t be able to afford to stay in one. If they want to live in their own four walls, that means their family, their relatives, will have to step up to the plate.

Extrapolations based on the GEDA 2012 study reveal that around 4 to 5 million private carers, mainly close relatives, help look after persons who live at home and need care (source).

Intelligent senior citizens assistance systems could make everyday life far easier for the elderly and their relatives. However, relatives who look after senior citizens usually don’t live with them. They work, are on the road or often live several kilometers away. It’s especially important for them to know that their senior citizen is living “securely” at home and can do everyday things on their own. The intelligent senior citizens assistance systems that Gigaset uses provide that security.

Part 1: Digital assistance systems for senior citizens

Assistance systems – the invisible helpers

Many of us already use this technology without realizing it. Where? When driving a car, for example, in household chores or when making calls. Assistance systems in cars are also termed “digital driver assistance systems.” That denotes solutions like parking assist, brake assist (ABS) and distance detection and speed regulation systems and much more. Their task is to help drivers get from A to B and actively increase safety. They are now second nature to all of us and we rely on them – after all, driver assistance systems are practical and they make driving not only safer, but also convenient.

Amazon Alexa and Co.

The smart assistants in the household are called Alexa, Siri, Cortana or Bixbi. The technology applied here is primarily voice recognition, since users speak with them. Calling out to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to turn the lights on or off is not only quick and convenient, but also practical when you get back to a dark home, your hands aren’t free and you don’t want to fall down. And if you’re in the kitchen kneading dough with both hands, it’s a boon to be able to set the right oven temperature beforehand via voice command or put on some music without having to wash your hands first. Whether in home or entertainment electronics – just about every device has an interface to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa so that users can communicate quickly and conveniently.

Sensors and interfaces for smart assistants

In driver assistance systems, sensors are responsible for enabling drivers and cars to respond very quickly and efficiently when the situation demands it. Cameras are also usually fitted, for example, to ensure perfect detection of distances and the surroundings – so that the sensors can respond smartly or communicate with each other. Digitalization and cutting-edge technologies enable these rapid advances.

Intelligent assistance systems help us park, find the way for us, count our steps or turn the lights on at home and are now part and parcel of many areas in our everyday life.

Assistance systems for senior citizens

Technical assistance systems for senior citizens are usually mentioned in numerous studies and publications in connection with elderly people who need care, namely in the context of “self-determined, age-appropriate living” (source). Assistance systems in the narrower sense, however, involve “systems for detecting emergency situations for seniors,” according to the German medical journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt.

That is closely related to the subject of ambient assisted living (AAL). Technical, age-appropriate assistance systems are intended to make the home suitable for seniors and help them stay in it (source).

Trials in special research homes for ambient assisted living, such as at Kempten University of Applied Sciences, are investigating how AAL can help elderly persons stay in their own four walls for as long as possible – despite their physical limitations.

For this, the scientists have installed cutting-edge technology in the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and living room (source). However, not every innovation proves suitable for the everyday life of the elderly. “The products have been made for seniors, but usually not tested by them. They’re often too small and too technical,” explains Petra Friedrich, Professor for Ambient Assisted Living and Scientific Director of the project in Kempten, which is funded by the Bavarian Ministry for Education, Culture, Science and Arts (source).

Smart care

So, is smart care more important than AAL? If we recall, the term “smart care” subsumes just about everything to do with care or seniors, even in the broadest sense. For example, “smart care” is used as a label to advertise multi-function carts (source), as well as modern hotel cosmetic products such as dispenser systems for the bathroom (source). The field is wide-ranging – there’s everything from the smart comfort care bath for seniors to emergency call systems. But what is really the prime concern of the elderly and their relatives?

Old, yet still leading a self-determined life

The fact is that elderly people want to stay in their own home for as long as they can – and digital applications, like Gigaset’s new smart care, can help them fulfill that wish. Wanting to live in your own four walls as long as possible is not just an understandable subjective wish, but also a social objective that makes sense against the backdrop of demographic change. Improving security for the elderly is, alongside providing ambulatory care services, a key requirement for achieving that goal.

Now that we have given a rough outline of the subject of smart care and the technological possibilities in this field in this first blog article, the following articles will deal in greater depth with specific factors that can help elderly people lead a self-determined life at home and so ensure their relatives have peace of mind.

Here’s what you can read about in part 2: Eliminating tripping hazards and avoiding the risk of falling

 

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