IoT and smart cities work in favour of the ageing population

Senior woman using smart devices
Sheila Zabeu -

August 11, 2023

Several initiatives around the world are embracing technology to help care for older people and allow them to live more comfortable and independent lives with their health conditions. To cite just the case of the United States, there are more than 800,000 Americans in assisted living and nearly 1.2 million licensed beds nationwide, according to the American Health Care Association. Considering this scenario in the United States and other countries, which is only expected to show increasing numbers due to the ageing and greater longevity of the population, it is necessary to think of solutions to assist caregivers, medical teams or even older people who can still live with some autonomy.

A recent example comes from Singapore. Still in the pilot phase, Seniors Lab, a digital programme developed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in partnership with Sree Narayana Mission (SNM), proposes integrated care for older people so that they can live an age with confid

Exploiting Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, Seniors Lab aims to improve the well-being and inclusion of Singapore’s elderly population while addressing challenges related to rising healthcare costs. By installing IoT sensors in seniors’ homes, Seniors Lab can digitally detect and record movements, activity levels, falls, social isolation indicators and other clinically relevant parameters, without giving up privacy. These sensors can also be integrated with wearables and healthcare ecosystems to ensure a holistic approach to care for seniors, according to the programme’s creators.

According to Mr K. Shanmugam, Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Law, the country is one of the fastest ageing societies in Asia, so it needs to evolve, to adapt to the growing needs of the elderly. “Initiatives like Seniors Lab raises people’s awareness and provides creative solutions for seniors to stay active, healthy and live with purpose and dignity and for our society to benefit from the wisdom and experience of this group,” he said.

Another initiative with the same goal of improving the living conditions of the elderly is an alliance between IoT solutions provider KORE and the GrandPad service that helps seniors connect with loved ones and carers at the touch of a button.

Using KORE’s IoT connectivity capabilities, GrandPad’s communication equipment allows seniors to make video calls and send voice messages, even if they have no experience with electronics, are technology-averse, or have vision, hearing, cognition or motor skills problems.

When a senior presses the ‘Help’ button on the GrandPad, service agents will be ready to answer questions or solve any other problem. The aim is to provide maximum confidence in the product to receive assistance when needed and thus live comfortably and independently.

Smart city also for seniors

From Thailand, the latest example of using technology with the elderly in mind has to do with smart cities. With the help of NEC, the municipality of Chiang Mai will develop a digital platform for the district’s healthcare system that supports health centres housing the elderly and patients with chronic diseases. The initiative also plans to explore the use of other applications aimed at smart hospitals.””Thailand needs to develop a healthcare system that can cope with the effects of an ageing population, and we are happy to take the first step together with local authorities to create a digital healthcare platform in three main phases in Chiang Mai,” says Ichiro Kurihara, president of NEC Thailand, explaining that the project is expanding an earlier test phase at an old people’s home to now cover the municipality.

NEC and healthcare providers participating in the program will deploy IoT devices in healthcare facilities and an app that will notify caregivers and relatives of patients in case of emergencies, such as falls or more serious conditions. In the second phase, NEC will further support carers through an app that will remotely monitor health conditions using cloud systems. The app will also manage appointments and medication orders. According to the developers of the solution, this will help reduce the workload of carers significantly.

Finally, NEC will help the city of Chiang Mai set up telemedicine services for patients to make enquiries and receive diagnoses of minor illnesses or have follow-up treatments with doctors from the comfort of their homes.

“This partnership is a significant milestone in NEC’s vision to create sustainable societies empowered by technology. We have identified healthcare as an important area where Thailand needs significant advancements to manage the consequences of an ageing population. With phase one of the digital platform for Chiang Mai’s healthcare system, we aspire to improve access to quality medical services and the well-being of residents,” adds Kurihara.