Digital has drastically improved the experience within Technology Enabled Care (TEC) for raising an emergency alarm. Upon pressing a pendant in a digital world, calls connect in just a few seconds, the clarity of speech is excellent and there are no limitations on the line, meaning that only one resident at a time can connect to the monitoring centre. This is such a basic necessity in supported housing, that it is amazing to think that this has not been the norm for years.
As we all face adapting our lives to COVID-19, another challenge has gained attention in 2020, social isolation. This is not a new challenge in our society, in fact we wrote a paper on the role of TEC with the Campaign to End Loneliness in 2018. However, the challenge has exacerbated this year, and it has gained more focus from the media.
Although this is an issue facing all areas of our society, older generations have been most affected. With dark, colder evenings approaching it is likely loneliness and isolation is going to become even tougher.
For younger generations technology has bridged the gap of physical contact – social media has enabled people to remain engaged in communities, and video calling has continued to put a face to a conversation.
For those with access to video calling, has it possibly become another emergency lifeline?
In a supported housing setting, shielding has been common, family visits have reduced, and the usual gatherings often cancelled. The ability to easily contact a friend, neighbour or member of staff, has provided a rare opportunity in a day to talk face to face and see a smile. It is safe to say that for many it has become a mental and wellbeing lifesaver.
Our research within the report ‘4 reasons housing provides should revise their plans for telecare’, highlighted that 82% of housing providers feel that enabling residents to communicate with friends/carers/family remotely is an essential or high priority. This is because we have seen through COVID-19 that vulnerable communities need support to maintain their social connections. And, those who are provided with the means to utilise technology relish it in a time of need. During the first half of 2020 we saw 192% increase in those residents with Smart Living Solutions using video calling.
For this reason, I think video calling for the time being may have become the emergency button that we all need to turn to from time to time.
One thing is for sure, that technology has played a vital role in maintaining communication and wellbeing during COVID-19, and access to these services should not be limited to certain people or generations.
Download our report with the HousingLIN on Why housing providers need to revise their telecare needs due to COVID-19