New design an innovative solution to support older people

Published on 05 November 2019

Thumbnail image of person holding a stress ball for the New design an innovative solution to support older people news item.

An exciting new tool will significantly improve the lives of older people, helping them to age well, independently.

The tool was designed by the Senior Wellness Project team (SWELL) - a collaboration between Horowhenua District Council and Electra’s SECURELY®, who were successful in securing a spot on the Lightning Lab GovTech programme.

The Programme enables project teams to develop innovative approaches to real world challenges in Aotearoa within a three-month period.

After speaking to more than 100 older people, team members Jorgen Kloppenburg and Sam Kemp-Milham found older people struggled to access services and many experienced poor customer delivery.

“It sounds simple, but we heard over and over again stories of carers turning up late or not at all, leaving without completing jobs such as leaving wet floors or not giving medication,” Mrs Kemp-Milham said.

The team found these small actions visibly stripped away the older person’s independence, with many saying they felt things were out of their control.

However, Mrs Kemp-Milham stressed, this was not always the fault of the carers.

“Most are trying their hardest but time constraints and systematic failures are letting everyone involved down.”

It was with the voices of older people in mind that the team developed a solution using Artificial Intelligence Technology. The solution is centred around a customised avatar visible through a smart television, which is connected to an ongoing wellbeing assessment tool.

“We were concerned that the older people would be dismissive of a technological solution, but we found that 80% of those we tested it with, loved it.”

Using the Whare Tapa Whā model, the technology can predict when help is needed earlier and supports the older person in a pro-active way.

“This solution puts the power back into the hands of the individual by enabling choice and providing ongoing communication,” Executive Sponsor Horowhenua District Council’s Nicki Brady said.

Not only can the technology improve the wellbeing of some of the country’s most vulnerable, but it’s estimated it could save the country up to $760 million over the next 10 years by helping to reduce acute bed days in hospitals. 

“With a fifth of NZ being over 65 by 2034, it is imperative that we put our people first. We must listen to their voice, and in understanding their needs work together to develop new solutions to improve the wellbeing of our people,” Mrs Brady said.

SECURELY®, Electra and Horowhenua District Council will work together over the next six months to research and develop the solution further.