Ivy Palmer - Care Advice & News

Hampshire Council to use Amazon to support the elderly

The local authority is trialling new software that could transform the way we care for our elderly population.

With the social care crisis looming ever closer, local councils and authorities in the UK are turning to more out-of-the-box solutions to ensure the elderly population are well-looked-after. Hampshire County Council are pioneering the use of technology in care with their plans to use a customised version of Amazon’s Echo to help older people live more independently.

How the project will work

‘Alexa’, which is being developed with Amazon’s open support, will be introduced to fifty vulnerable adults in Hampshire by the end of 2017, with trials expected to run well into the New Year.

According to Counsellor Liz Fairhurst, who is the county’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health, this is a “world first” – and, she says, the software could in fact help clients “avoid the need for additional care packages”, which are often costly and in short supply from local authorities due to exceptional demand. You can read Claire’s full take on the project in the Basingstoke Gazette; the article also contains a quote from Steve Carefull, an adult social care expert at PA Consulting Group.

Alexa can be used in a range of ways to improve the lives of those who are living alone later in life, or those who need extended support due to mobility problems or general ill health. For example, the system could be set up to remind the user to take their daily medication, suggest certain types of exercise, or notify them that their carer will be arriving at a certain time.

At a basic level, Alexa could even help its elderly users feel less isolated. With over half of those aged over 75 living alone – and with a shocking 75% of the elderly in the UK feeling lonely on a regular basis, as The Guardian has previously reported – any steps we can take to improve the wellbeing of these individuals are bound to make a profound difference on their quality of life. Alexa could be programmed to deliver news updates, provide clients with current weather forecasts, and even stream digital media, such as audiobooks or radio, through to their home.

How else can we support those in need of care?

There are, of course, plenty of choices available to people who need extra support from their community. Alongside going into a care home on a full-time basis, people could opt to work with a live in care agency, or a close friend or family member could become a full-time carer. But now that we are experiencing an unprecedented need for long-term care services, any move that lessens the strain on our social care system will certainly be welcomed, and hopefully adopted by, more councils across the United Kingdom.