HealthAgenda

Research & Insights

Can technology help older people stay in their homes for longer?

Melbourne-based brothers are reimagining the way aged care is provided in Australia. 

Health Agenda magazine
April 2018

A digital monitoring system called Billy is helping older people stay in their homes for longer. Founded by Melbourne-based brothers Tim and Matt McDougall, Billy was a start-up participant in the 2017 HCF Catalyst health tech accelerator program.

Keeping seniors’ support networks informed

Billy relies on small sensors distributed around the senior’s home to pick up activity. The sensors track temperature, movement and the opening and closing of doors, so you can tell if your loved one has gone through their usual routine of getting up for the day, prepared meals, taken medication and arrived home safely after going out.

That information is shared to an app for a nominated family member, friend or caregiver. This helps seniors receive the right support when they need it.

The pair came up with the system in response to their grandfather’s needs. Their fiercely independent grandfather wanted to stay in his own home for as long as possible, despite his remote location and dementia diagnosis. Concerned for his wellbeing and safety, his family looked for digital solutions.

“You can get an emergency button that calls an ambulance. You can get a device that detects that somebody has had a fall. However, there wasn’t anything that focused on helping someone maintain their wellbeing and their independence,” Tim says.

Protecting privacy and dignity

Instead of relying on the older person to check in, the sensors do all the work discreetly in the background.

“Making it passive is about protecting dignity – the senior isn’t asked to wear anything or push a button and they can get about their normal lives without interference,” Tim explains.

This also improves the system’s reliability as it’s not reliant on someone remembering to wear a device or to get in touch.

“We don’t do anything like cameras in the home – we think that crosses the line in terms of privacy and dignity.

“In our grandfather’s case, we knew that he was suffering from dementia, but we knew that if he’d got up for the day and had his morning cup of tea we were reassured that things were okay.”

Complementing family interaction

Billy isn’t designed to replace family contact, but to inform and assist it, McDougall says. Far from replacing personal interactions, it can increase engagement between families and seniors.

It can also support physical health through tracking if medication has been taken and alerting families of a problem early, for example if there hasn’t been movement detected for a few hours.

“We really are trying to reimagine the way that aged care is provided in Australia, and ensuring that older people feel safe, comfortable and have peace of mind is fundamental to supporting their mental health.”

Related articles

MEMORY LOSS OR DEMENTIA: HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE

As we age, our focus, ability to retain new information and memory may diminish, but dementia goes much further. Here’s what you need to know.

THE HEALTH IMPACTS OF LONELINESS

For many of us the world is becoming a lonelier place. More than just making us feel sad, it can make us physically ill, but there are ways to reach out.

THE TELOMERE REVOLUTION

The tiny telomeres on our DNA may hold the key to living longer, ageing better and staying healthier. But can we improve our telomere health?

KEEPING ACTIVE AFTER 60

How to enjoy the benefits of exercise in your senior years.

Important Information

This communication contains information which is copyright to The Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia Limited (HCF). It should not be copied, disclosed or distributed without the authority of HCF. Except as required by law, HCF does not represent, warrant and/or guarantee that this communication is free from errors, virus, interception or interference. All reasonable efforts have been taken to ensure the accuracy of material contained on this website. It’s not intended that this website be comprehensive or render advice. HCF members should rely on authoritative advice they seek from qualified practitioners in the health and medical fields as the information provided on this website is general information only and may not be suitable to individual circumstances or health needs. Please check with your health professional before making any dietary, medical or other health decisions as a result of reading this website.