Key business challenge for 2016:
- The financial and emotional cost of the ageing population is one of the key issues facing society – considered by some to be a ‘time bomb’ that will take economies to a new crisis point
- The number of people aged 85 or over will reach 3.5 million by 2034 and account for five per cent of the total population, according to the Office for National Statistics
- Technology could have the answer – but only if businesses wake up to the challenge and get behind an innovation ‘space race’ in 2016
How to care for the oldest members of society is a pressing issue for the global economy but, despite their fast growing numbers and obvious need of support to remain independent, they are being neglected by technological innovators according to the Chief Executive Officer of new healthcare technology business.
According to projections by the Office for National Statistics, by 2034 the number of people aged 85 or over will be 2.5 times higher than in 2009. The cost of this ageing population is one of the key issues facing society with predictions of it crippling the country’s economy.
But healthcare technology company Protelhealth believes that the ageing population is a challenge that can be met and embraced with ingenuity and innovation. The firm already operates a successful e-business offering innovative healthcare products, however, Protelhealth’s Chief Executive Officer Norman Niven is concerned that not enough of the nation’s technological fire power is being put behind such products. He is urging entrepreneurs and technology innovators to grasp this challenge as a priority.
Mr Niven comments: “We have established an excellent platform through which new products for independent living can be taken to market, backed by guidance on the best product for each requirement. Yet our biggest challenge is a lack of products that both do the job and are acceptable to discerning consumers.
“Technology for younger consumers is delivered at an unprecedented rate, and they benefit from having innovative technology at the core of their day-to-day lives”, continues serial entrepreneur Niven. “From Fitbit activity trackers, through smart meters, to phone-linked home security systems – and yet we expect our parents and grandparents to rely on ugly and out-dated technologies such as emergency buttons and fall cords. This is something that cannot continue.”
The Protelhealth team believes that security, dignity and independence in old age are within the UK’s grasp, if – and only if – businesses develop the technological solutions needed to support the elderly and unwell to live at home successfully and for longer.
The firm has already launched telmenow.com – a website designed specifically to offer advice and innovative products to support those living at home. It showcases fresh and effective products such as the Pebbell GPS Tracking Device, trueCall call monitoring device and AliveCor® Smartphone Heart Monitor. And yet the pool from which to select effective and acceptable products is small.
Niven explains: “Our target consumers are proud and independent people who want to enjoy their later years in the same way they have lived, but to date product developers and technology innovators have not embraced them as a target audience. This is particularly shocking as they are one of the fastest growing consumer groups in the UK.”
Protelhealth’s appeal for 2016 is for UK technology to undertake a drive that resembles the ‘space race’ of the 1960s. President John F. Kennedy’s statement that the USA would land a man on the moon galvanised industry and science in the US to make major leaps to achieve his goal. In the same way, a period of focused attention on a clear goal could lead the UK to a period of accelerated and successful technological advancement. In driving for dignified home support for our oldest old, UK industry could achieve significant commercial success, and guard against spiralling healthcare and welfare costs.
Norman Niven concludes: “The generation that cared for its families and for the UK through times of turmoil, is now being poorly served by the generation that it raised. This is not due to lack of concern but the nature of modern society, whereby children can live many hundreds of miles from their parents and both men and women work full time. And yet the middle aged consumer relies heavily on technology to make many of their most basic actions possible.
“2016 is a critical year and one that could witness dramatic change. If consumers are more demanding, and businesses more innovative, the future welfare of the nation’s parents and grandparents can be improved dramatically. The UK could – and should – provide a benchmark for the world in using innovation to protect and support its most vulnerable residents, and we need to do so soon.”