Switched-on’ generation switched off to life-changing care technology

Tech-savvy consumers, young and old, are missing out on the help technology can give when caring for older, ill or disabled loved ones – a new poll highlights.

The report, Potential for Change, shows that while over 7 in 10 UK adults routinely turn to technology for banking, shopping and communications, only 3 in 10 are embracing health and care technology to help care for older or disabled relatives.

The national YouGov poll, commissioned by charity Carers UK and supported by Tunstall Healthcare (UK), highlights that all generations are failing to switch-on to care technologies – with young and old, middle class and wealthier respondents and social media users all reporting low use of gadgets and online health and care support.

Although many might not feel a need to use health and care technologies if they and their families are fit and well, the polling shows people wouldn’t instantly consider technology if they did start to care for an ill or disabled loved one. When asked what their top sources of support would be if they had to care, only 4% selected technology as one of their top two.

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Baby monitors, burglar alarms, chatting with relatives on Skype, online banking, GPS navigation. The list of technology that is a normal and often essential part of many of our daily lives grows by the day. But we are not realising the capacity for technology to save time and reduce stress for the growing number of families who are caring for older and disabled loved ones.”

Telecare, the use of monitors, sensors and alarms to maximise independence and minimise risks, is one of the most established care technologies. Yet, when asked if they would use telecare without a description of what it is, just over 1 in 8 (12%) UK adults said they would use it, with 80% stating that they were not sure what telecare is.

Carers UK says the polling indicates the barrier to using care technology is often a lack of knowledge, advice and information rather than a public resistance to health and care technology.

When telecare was described to respondents, the percentage saying they would use it to help them if they were caring rose to almost 8 in 10 (79%), so long as it was affordable. This was even higher amongst over 65s (85%). Only 5% of UK adults said they definitely would not consider using it.

Heléna Herklots continued: “This isn’t about replacing hands-on care with technology. But instead, we need to realise the potential for gadgets, the internet and smartphone technology to support caring just as they help many people work, communicate, do their shopping, manage childcare and access entertainment. We need joint action from Government, public service professionals and technology providers to open up access to these technologies to support the increasing number of families struggling to balance caring for older and disabled relatives with work and sometimes childcare simultaneously.”

At a parliamentary event on Tuesday (10th September), Carers UK will set out a vision for widening access to health and care technologies, including:

  1. A step-change in public and professional awareness of health and care technologies so that use and purchase of technology to support caring becomes a normal part of life and of professional practice.
  2. Cross-Government action to identify and realise the potential of health and care technologies to support health and wellbeing, business growth and productivity, labour market participation, care workforce development and the sustainability of health and social care services.
  3. A vibrant, accessible health and care technologies market focussed on consumers, which delivers attractive, affordable products and services which reflect how families live and work.