Richard Farrell-Smith, Tunstall’s Group Product Manager, discusses the Advancing Knowledge of Telecare for Independence and Vitality in later lifE (AKTIVE) project ahead of his presentation at King’s Fund congress.

I work in the product team here at Tunstall and I am very much looking forward to The King’s Fund International Digital Health and Care Congress this week. ‘What is the future for health and social care?’ is a question the event will aim to answer, and it is one that is sure to generate some great debates. There is no doubt that technology can enable improvements in care for people with health and social care needs and that it will play a crucial part in our future. But how is change best achieved?

How can technology help sustain independence?

Sustaining independence as people age is a topic up for discussion at the congress and I will be hosting a paper presentation with Professor Sue Yeandle that covers important new research in this area. The Advancing Knowledge of Telecare for Independence and Vitality in later lifE (AKTIVE) project was supported under Technology Strategy Board’s Assisted Living Innovation Platform (ALIP) to explore the role of technology in supporting older people living with frailty, dementia or disability to live independently at home. The project was led by the Centre for International Research on Care Labour and Equalities (CIRCLE) at the University of Leeds and I was a member of the AKTIVE consortium. As a member of the consortium, I worked alongside project director Professor Sue Yeandle and the AKTIVE team, including partners at University of Oxford and Inventya Ltd, to understand users’ needs. AKTIVE research differs from previous work in this field as it involved a methodology called Everyday Life Analysis as part of an in-depth study of 60 older people using telecare in Leeds and Oxfordshire over a period of 6-9 months.

Realising the potential

AKTIVE research found that telecare services offer numerous benefits to users and their caring networks, including increasing choice and control and retaining dignity in later life. However, these services also have more potential than is being currently realised. Consequently, the team has made suggestions as to how we can all help realise this potential. These include a greater consideration of how technology enabled services are selected and adopted (or adapted) to suit an individual’s personal needs, as well as consideration of an individual’s wider caring network. Also key was that people need to be more aware of technologies like telecare before they need to use them. This means people are not first introduced to services (for example, a personal alarm to alert a monitoring centre) at a time when they are already experiencing considerable and potentially stressful life changes.

Technology will never be able to replace the need for human contact but it is able to help manage risks and enable independence for the fast growing numbers of people who seek support in later life, as well as their families and carers. As such, change in how we use technology to support ‘ageing in place’ is an important part of the future of social care and it is up to us all to do our bit to help realise its potential.

You can read more about the AKTIVE project’s research and results in the final papers on the CIRCLE at University of Leeds website and in these other blog posts.

Another useful resource is the recent Knowledge Transfer Network/Technology Strategy Board report of the final AKTIVE conference.

The King’s Fund congress will take place from Wednesday 10 to Friday 12 September, in London, and the AKTIVE presentation is scheduled for Thursday.

You can follow the event on Twitter using @TheKingsFund #kfdigital and