Guest Blog: Paul Teverson, Director of Communications, McCarthy & Stone – Home Smart Homes?

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Home Smart Homes?

To mark our 40th anniversary, we have commissioned a far-reaching report into how new smart technologies in the home are set to transform independent living for older people. Written by the Agile Ageing Alliance, a social campaigning organisation, the report is the first to look at how smart technologies are set to revolutionise how older people live at home and deliver transformative benefits to health and well-being in later life.

The report’s key concept is that the ‘Cognitive Home of the Future’ will help meet the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing population. Almost 32 million people will be aged 60 or over in the UK by 2039 and the need for suitable living environments for older people are going to become increasingly important. The report notes that within the next 20 years, older people could well be living in an intelligent ‘Cognitive Home’ that is almost human, and which is able to assess and manage individual needs and desires.  There are a range of exciting products out there already and more are coming to market, from power suits, robotic assistants, self-stocking fridges, intuitive health care and virtual GPs which may all be provided in the comfort of the home. The report indicates how future retirees are open to the idea of a cognitive and empathetic home with human qualities. They also anticipate smart non-intrusive, secure connections with friends, family, GPs and/or carers who keep an eye on those who look after them.

However, to be successful, it is essential that smart technology is designed around their needs. While there is real opportunity here, there are also barriers that need to be overcome. Firstly, there is a general under-supply of age-appropriate housing being built.  Secondly, much of the tech for older people is currently institutional in feel, and not designed with the user in mind. It needs to appeal to older buyers, remain ‘cool’, be personalised and value for money.

It also needs to be inter-operable, and older people expect transparency in their dealings with tech companies. They love companies competing for their business and do not like monopoly suppliers. Also, many older people are adverse to using tech, but this is changing rapidly. Ultimately, and to be successful, older people want suppliers to focus on them as ‘customers’, not as patients, end users, or care clients, and to design around them.

McCarthy & Stone is responding positively to the recommendations in the report and has a number of exciting activities underway. We want to see what these changes will mean for our future designs, and to help guide the housing designs of the rest of the industry.  Following this report, we will be launching a working party to look at the role of smart technology, which will report later this year.  We are already beginning to explore some of these themes in our developments.  We have electric windows, camera-door entry systems linked to TVs, 24 hour call systems, electric buggy scooter stores, wifi in our shared areas, and ‘hide and slide’ ovens.

We will also shortly be installing super-fast broadband as standard on every development.  We have trialled Bluetooth mirrors (which play music and can connect to your phone) and  electric underfloor heating is also now standard across our developments.  We are beginning a tablet-based pilot of a healthcare monitoring and communications system, which includes video / audio calling, messaging, photo / video sharing, medication reminders, automated alerts, well-being trends, daily check in, call me requests, and exercise videos.

We will also be looking at discrete wearable healthcare monitoring devices (such as fobs, bracelets and watches) which can monitor, alert, analyse and prevent future issues.  Although we don’t think tech will ever replace the need for the personal ‘human’ touch and companionship, there is certainly a role for augmenting personal support through well-designed products.

The report also supports the Government’s agenda around the ageing population and its recent Housing White Paper. The document states that Government will help older people move at the right time and in the right way to enable them to live independently for longer and improve their quality of life, at the same time as freeing up homes for other buyers and reducing costs to the social care and health systems.

Building more age-friendly housing is now a primary objective and this report supports this agenda by drawing on the know-how of a wide range of expert stakeholders to help deliver housing outcomes that are better for older people. New forms of technology and ‘big data’ present possibilities for everyone, especially older adults.  However, their impact on those in later life is relatively unexplored. This is of great interest to us, and government, particularly how they can support this age group to live better at home.  If we get this right, then there could be a revolution in how government and society looks after its ageing population.

Our aim with the report has been to summarise in one place what technology is on the horizon and consider how it could empower older adults. Looking to the future, we want technology to be inclusive – for the benefit of everyone – and ultimately to facilitate the creation of new homes that will support happier, healthier and, hopefully, longer lives.

For more of McCarthy & Stone’s work on cognitive homes, read ‘Neighbourhoods of the Future: The shape of things to come’.

Paul Teverson
Director of Communications
McCarthy & Stone

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One thought on “Guest Blog: Paul Teverson, Director of Communications, McCarthy & Stone – Home Smart Homes?

  1. Some of us are already ahead of you! —-I am a retired (ex-nuclear construction industry) engineering inspector (Trained in metallurgy) that is coming up to 77 and living on my own, and no close relatives. I have an old home and am engineering my future on limited funds, but I have already started on the process of “Engineering my future”.

    With a view to collecting potential new ideas, about the possible future courses of action I can take, I sometimes go to both ILC meetings and Age U.K. meetings in London, when I can afford it.

    I would like to suggest to you the home of the future could insist on the following:-
    Anti-bacterial floor and wall tiles in the bathroom, toilet and kitchen of such properties. ( I have already done a small bathroom toilet with the floor tiles.) I am no expert in just how effective these tiles are, but the ones I have had installed (imported from Italy) are made to a European anti-bacterial standard.
    The way they work is that traces of silver are put into the tile -so that when bugs fall on them the reproductive properties of the bugs is poisoned. You still have to clean them but it means that for a given standard of cleanliness achieved, it lasts a lot longer (hopefully?) than would otherwise be the case.

    The American “Microban” brand is often associated with this system and other products (sometimes with elements other than silver) is used in both ceramics and plastics. For example the principle is used for shower curtains and toilet seats.—why not toilets, toilet covers, hand wash basins, and baths?
    Many of these products are just not available in the U.K. . Products said to be “anti-bacterial” by salesmen, —is not acceptable, —they MUST be made to a well known anti-bacterial standard.

    Also another thing which I have done in my bungalow’s electrical system is to use plastic conduits for all the wiring, and also use both wire and plastic conduit to approved suitable standards, for both electrical and fireproofing the 13 amp. system and the lighting and the higher rated system required for showers and cooking stoves.

    This imposes extra cost, yes, but reduces it when it comes to rewiring the property later in its’ life. You can use the old wire to act as a pull-though for the new wire. This cuts down the time and cost and re-plastering/re-decorating can be avoided. I also use “ roses “ for the central lights in rooms, -so that the lamp on its wire can easily be un-plugged from the ceiling for cleaning the lamp/shade, or changing the bulb, elsewhere.

    All the taps are of the cartridge type, i.e. without washers,—I have had far less “washer-leaking” trouble with these.

    I have also fixed up my electric kettle, deep-fat frier, and steam iron with “ countdown timers “ (available at D.I.Y.Stores but only for up to a load of 13 amps. ) —assuming that, later in life, I am going to be forgetful!

    What I want is a high amperage version for my electric cooker. I believe that the Fire Research Organisation based in Watford are the people to contact as regards the latest news on this. I contacted them some time ago and there was very little in the way of products on the market fitted with countdown timers (Only one, a Finnish Company makes such a product which would satisfy this requirement)

    You also mentioned “Electric windows” —do you mean open/shut electrification or do you mean electrically operated transparency? —the latter,I understand is available as a adhesive “cling” film in the USA,—you cut it to size with sissors, stick it on your window and connect up a device which is operated by a mobile “phone-ap”. With this you can switch off the transparency of the window using your phone.

    Mobility vehicles, and in my case, electric bikes, need re-charging facilities in garages and this is for when one can no longer drive.

    I hope this gives you some new ideas to work on. I run a top of the range Macintosh computer but I would not recommend any future for the use of them until they, and their software are, produced on a “Right first time” design philosophy, coupled with say, a 40 year design life.

    Why can I not buy a Washing Machine, Refrigerator with Anti-bacterial materials inside it? , with a 40 year design life??
    I am lucky , so far, I have a washing machine which is still operating after 30 years, -so far!

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