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Top Five Technology Trends for Retirement Villages

Retirement Living technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. These advances allow residents and staff to feel more connected, safer and more fulfilled. In particular, five technology trends stand out, when it comes to improving the facilities and living standards. Retirement village developers, construction companies, property and asset managers are increasingly incorporating these so that their developments do not fall behind the times.

Trend #1: Unified Site Management

Retirement village managers always have to face the issue of maximizing available resources. It is vital to achieve greater efficiencies when it comes to harnessing available staff, as well as in order to reduce the utility usage and other costs. Current advances in technology allow these managers to do just that.

For example, achieving greater security for residents is an important management objective. Older analogue CCTV systems helped in this regard, but they offered limited image quality and convenience. Today, retirement villages can take advantage of high definition IP video cameras in order to better secure the entrances, exits and other important points in the village. These cameras can provide superior image quality, which makes it more likely that intruders will be quickly detected. The wireless nature of these cameras also makes it easier to position them wherever they are needed the most, while still allowing the video feeds to be monitored from central locations.

These high definition cameras can also be tremendously useful in controlled access areas.   A major concern in these environments is the risk that a resident may wander unsupervised into other parts of the facility, or possibly outdoors. Cameras can be located at and around the facility exits, as well as other interior areas, so that staff are more effective at quickly locating and securing wandering residents, even from a central command room.

In addition, technology offers managers the advantages of greater automation, remote access control and utility management. Automation allows lights, power and more to be turned on only when they are needed. Remote access control allows staff to quickly unlock doors, activate intercoms and provide direct access to a resident in emergency situations. Utility management provides supervisors with near-real-time information on energy, solar power and other utility use, allowing them to better plan ways to reduce consumption.

One great benefit of this unified IP management platform is that a single fibre optic cabling system is used for all IP services.  This reduces capital costs and saves space.  Previously, separate cabling systems were required for phone, for security cameras, for access control, for intercom, for Free-to-Air TV, for Foxtel, for energy monitoring and so on.  These all now run on the unified fibre cabling system.

Trend #2: Social Connections

In the age of social media, family members, friends and colleagues can stay in touch via the Internet. In retirement villages, technology allows residents to easily and conveniently connect with their loved ones. Thanks to high speed Internet, it becomes easy to make video calls to children, relatives and others, even if those people are in a different city, country or continent.

Social media not only lets older people stay in touch with their loved ones, it also allows them to create or join groups and communities that interest them. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 44% of older persons accessed the Internet from their homes in 2012-2013 and roughly a third of those persons used the Internet for social networking. With access to the internet becoming more common, as well as the greater availability of easy-to-use mobile tablets and apps, it would not be surprising for these figures to rise even further.

Home assistive technologies are another important development. These allow residents to more easily get in touch with their doctors, call a cab, have someone clean their home, order a meal or groceries, and much more. The interfaces are adapted for use by older people, so that they remain convenient even for people with visual, hearing or other sensory issues. This offers much potential in terms of increasing quality of life for the elderly, especially for those who live in more remote locations or those who do not have friends or family nearby.

Trend #3: RF-ID over Wi-Fi

RF-ID is short for radio frequency identification. What this means is that there are certain tags or badges with built-in chips and components that can be worn by persons or attached to objects or equipment. These tags can then be located using the Wi-Fi network in a particular location. Clearly, this type of system offers many benefits for retirement village managers.

Managers will be able to know where personnel are located at all times and they can also monitor the locations of residents and equipment, all from one location. Alerts can be set up so that the manager is notified if residents enter or exit a particular zone, if a resident has been worryingly inactive for too long, or if equipment is taken away from the premises. Residents can also use the badges to call for help. This system increases resident health and safety, improves staff efficiency, and prevents potential theft of property. Over time, the information gained from the RF-ID tags allows the retirement village manager to better plan overall workflow and equipment use.

Trend #4: Telehealth

Another key development that technology allows is Telehealth, or the ability to provide needed medical care over long distances. Residents are able to consult with doctors and specialists, even if those doctors are in clinics or hospitals which are nowhere near the retirement village. Video calls mean that the doctors don't just hear their patient speak, they can also gain visual information from the resident. This allows for timely, convenient and more affordable medical care because the resident no longer has to physically travel to a doctor's clinic or be admitted into a hospital. This system can also allow family members to share information and participate in video or voice calls, when necessary.

In addition, Telehealth can be augmented through the use of sensors, such as those which can monitor blood pressure and other vital signs. When these sensors are regularly worn on the body or if regular scans are made, this allows doctors to quickly detect if something is wrong or if health is declining.

Telehealth also offers advantages to retirement village staff. More specifically, clinical staff can use this technology to gain access to medical specialists and a larger medical support network, so that they can better serve the needs of residents. These facilities allow residents to become more independent and to maintain their transitional lifestyle.

Trend #5: Online Physical Therapy

It is important for older people to maintain an active lifestyle and not fall into the trap of sedentary living. This is easier said than done, however, studies are finding that video games may be one way to promote greater activity. So-called "exergames" or video games which have a physical activity component, offer a number of benefits. Since they are fun to play, motivation is less of a problem. Many of these games use a simple controller or motion detection, so there is no cumbersome input device to get used to, and residents who have mobility issues can still play along.

These exergames also allow older people to play games that they are already familiar with, such as bowling. The games can foster social interaction among the players, and the act of playing also stimulates the players' minds. One added benefit of these exergames is that they can be conveniently done in the home. The act of playing games can be paired with the use of sensors by the resident, so that staff or medical professionals can better keep track of the health of the individual.

The physical therapy that these games can provide will help to increase overall health of residents, as well as improve balance, coordination and mental alertness. This can then result in fewer falls and injuries. This is a win-win situation for both residents and retirement village staff.

The Future is Connected

These are just some of the many ways in which technology can improve the quality of life of older people and improve the operation of retirement villages and aged care facilities. You can expect these technologies to be further refined over the years, even as new advances become available. One key underlying factor which allows all these advances to function is bandwidth. Bandwidth is needed for high definition cameras, unified site management systems, video calls, RF-ID over Wi-Fi, Telehealth demanding online games, and more. Without that bandwidth, these advances end up crippled and wasted.

Traditional copper networks lack the necessary bandwidth to handle these technological applications. In fact, it is expected that bandwidth requirements will only increase over the coming years. Therefore, this is something that needs to be considered and carefully thought out very early in the planning stage of any new retirement village. This is not something that can be added after the fact. It needs to be integrated into the very design and structure of the complex.

When it comes to bandwidth, it is clear that high speed optical fibre networks are what are needed, in order to enable current and future technological advancements. These optical fibre networks are the backbone which allow the various technologies to run on a single network. It makes sense for retirement village managers and similar professionals to invest in high speed optical fibre networks, so that their networks are future proof and will be good for many more years to come. In addition, there is also the potential to harness communication and other services as additional revenue streams for the facility.

For more information on how Madison can help you with a carrier grade optical fibre network, give us a call on 1800 122 223.