Older People Empowered By New Technology

Thousands of older and vulnerable people  in Scotland will be able to live more independently for longer thanks to an £8 million investment in new ‘telecare’ technology. Telecare, which has been pioneered in West Lothian, involves people having a range of innovative monitors fitted to their homes. These can range from fall sensors and panic buttons to flood detectors, and are connected to a round-the-clock emergency call and response service. The announcement of the national roll-out of the scheme was made during a visit to Colinshiel Court, a Housing with Care development, managed by Hanover (Scotland) Housing Association in Armadale which incorporates the new technology.

Mamie Wallace, 82, became isolated in her previous home following a below the knee amputation as there was no lift and her house was up a flight of stairs.

A resident of Colinshiel Court for eight months, she explained that having motion detectors, a remote door controller system and a panic button in her house has brought peace of mind and increased her confidence in moving about.

Ms Wallace said: “My life has changed tremendously since moving  to Colinshiel Court. I am less wary about moving around and about because I know that help is there if I need it. And it’s now easier for me to let visitors in and out of the house because I don’t have to go to the door every time. Living here has enabled me to live more independently and made me feel safer.”

Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said: “Telecare can help Scotland’s increasing number of older people to lead fuller and more independent lives. The number of older and vulnerable people in Scotland is predicted to rise significantly in the coming decades, and we need to plan for this.

“Telecare is an excellent example of how services can be redesigned in more integrated and imaginative ways, by using the latest technology to complement traditional, one-to-one support from trained, professional staff. Older people who may otherwise have gone into full-time residential care can feel more secure at home, giving them the confidence and reassurance that help is at hand if they need it. It also provides peace of mind to their families and support for their carers.

“Use of telecare allows, for example, non-intrusive monitoring of whether an individual has got up in the morning, or has fallen, or has had a flood in the kitchen or bathroom. It can also be used to remind people to take medicine.

“The new funding we are announcing today will enable local authorities to develop the service in their areas. Our aim is to see around 75,000 people, including 9,000 with dementia, benefiting from telecare services.”

Funding will be allocated to local Health and Social Care Partnerships which include local health care providers, local authorities and other organisations, on a formula basis according to size and population. Grants can be drawn down following the submission of delivery proposals meeting specific set-out criteria.

Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said: “Research has consistently shown that people want to stay at home as long as possible and we are committed to enabling that to happen where appropriate. The successful development of the service in West Lothian was a result of partners coming together and it has delivered a number of benefits including a reduction in the number of patients staying in hospital longer than necessary, a cut in the average length of stay in care homes, and most importantly, improved the quality of life for both users and carers. I look forward to seeing similar benefits being delivered throughout the rest of Scotland.”

Councillor Bruce Ferrie, Convener of West Lothian Council’s Health and Care Committee, said: “West Lothian Council first piloted the telecare technology in 2001 through its Opening Door Project. From the outset, the discreet sensors proved to be a success with both users and their families and carers.

“Now we are leaders in this field in Europe with around 2,300 vulnerable people being successfully supported in their own homes. Our target for this year is to increase this to more than 3,000, and add to the range of sensors and equipment, to support a broader range of needs.”

Hanover Board Member, Mel Wilson said: “Hanover has undertaken a number of telecare initiatives and looks forward to making a significant contribution in future. Housing with Care, supported by new technology, has the capacity to improve the quality of life for the increasing population of older and vulnerable people throughout Scotland.”

Telecare in West Lothian, thought to be the biggest project of its kind in Europe, was introduced five years ago. It has been delivered through a partnership including West Lothian Council, NHS Lothian and Hanover (Scotland) Housing Association.