Headlines: October 20th, 2009

High tech help for the growing number of elderly people who need care will be on the agenda at a conference this week. Coffee tables that dispense medicine and robotic pets that act as alarms as well as offering companionship will be among the telecare solutions to be discussed at the event being organised by the Local Government Association and the Association of Director of Adult Social Services.

Councils spent 75 million pounds on telecare last year and authorities are being urged to explore more ways of cutting care home bills and keeping older people in their own homes for longer as the number of over 65s is expected to rise by more than three million in the next fifteen years.

Delegates to the national children and adults conference, which begins tomorrow in Harrogate, will learn more about a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Centre for Usable Home Technology setting out a number of emerging technologies for possible council use. As well as the robopets and clever coffee tables, they include talking walking frames that remind people where they are going, set-top boxes so people can consult nurses, doctors and social workers or contact friends and relatives using 3-D video technology, and special exo-skeleton suits to help infirm people climb stairs.

David Rogers, who chairs the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Investing in services to keep people active should delay the onset of major health problems and postpone the time when intensive care and support is needed. This saves council taxpayers’ money in the long term at a time when the demand for adult care is rising and funding is falling.”