Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Nov-Dec 2014 Contents >
without the need for individuals to learn
how to operate a device. Such monitoring
allows for the remote observation of daily
living and mobility patterns, highlighting
unusual activities or events and triggering
an intervention to avoid potentially
Smart systems primarily utilise sensor
technologies---the most common being
motion, pressure and heat sensors,
sensors detecting electricity and water
consumption but also restlessness in bed
or respiration. These "fixed" technologies
are already being used in residential care
facilities around the world.
However, new "wearable" technologies
have begun to emerge that could
revolutionise the aged care sector. Some
of these devices have been designed for
use in healthcare, but others come from
the gaming industry. As a result, we now
have the capacity to monitor a resident's
location, speed, direction, gait and their
vital signs---to the point that caregivers
will not always need a direct line of
sight. A resident can move more freely
through a facility and out into a secure
garden area---the benefits of which are
well documented. If there is an event
that requires attention, then caregivers
can receive an automatic notification,
indicating the severity of that event and
the amount of attention required.
As these technologies become more
widespread, they will have a significant
impact on the layout of residential care
were seen as functional and staff members
were focused on solving problems and
completing tasks. In contrast, at the
summer camp, these relationships
became more positive and supportive,
characterised by equality, personal
interactions and attention, reciprocity, and
trust. Despite initial concerns about the
apparent hazards of an open environment,
staff eventually reported they felt less
stressed tha they did in the secure unit.
As a consequence of this research, the
care facility made changes to the way
in which they delivered their structured
leisure programs, enabling residents to
make choices that suited them at a given
moment in time.
Dr Wiersma argues that place is not
only physical, it is deeply connected
to our sense of self. Accordingly, place
incorporates the social environment as well
as the physical. Although limited in scope,
this study is not alone in pointing out
the benefits of more open environments
for both residents and staff alike. Until
recently, the concept of an open - and
equally safe - residential care facility has
not been possible, but with the emergence
of new location-based technologies, that
idea is now becoming a reality.
The concept of the "smart home" refers
to residential settings where technology is
embedded in the physical infrastructure,
facilitating passive monitoring of residents
"The only thing is, you can't get
out when you want to. That's the only
thing. Otherwise, it's perfectly, I mean,
your doors are locked, and you're
imprisoned, more or less, can't say
there's anything I dislike. Anything I
dislike is you can't get out when you
want to unless you have an escort with
you. And then you can only go out on
the grounds and the escort has to be
with you all the time."
Despite his confusion, another resident,
Michael, was even more eloquent about his
experience of being confined in the facility:
Dr Wiersma: Is there anything you
dislike about this place?
Michael: It's confining aspect.
Dr Wiersma: How is it confining?
Michael: Just look around you right
now. How many walls do you see?
At the summer camp, as might be
expected, the absence of locked doors
was recognised by residents as liberating.
However, the way in which this new sense
of freedom immediately affected the
quality of life of both residents and staff
was more remarkable. When reminiscing
in the institution, residents focused on
work, duty and other non-personal topics.
At the camp, reminiscing dramatically
shifted to focus on family, childhood
experiences, and other types of personal
and emotional experience, revealing much
more about who the residents were.
In the long-term care facility,
relationships between staff and residents
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