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Your Later Life Q3 2022

How can technology help older people live more independently?

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Clive Gilbert

Policy Manger for Assistive and Accessible Technology, Policy Connect

The UK’s population is ageing while technology is revolutionising how we all live our lives, from work to shopping to socialising.


Smart home technology is a huge opportunity for older people to take control of their environment and live independently in the comfort of their own homes for a longer time. People with reduced mobility could activate lighting, heating, curtains and other fixtures through a smart phone app or by issuing voice commands to a smart speaker.

It also helps people remain socially engaged and connected to their communities through news websites, entertainment streaming services and video conferencing.

Lastly, this technology can also support the provision of care services. This includes devices that can detect potentially dangerous situations—for instance, if a person has fallen over—and allow users to call for help.

We must design tech together with older and disabled people so that we can make sure it is easy for them to use.

Accessibility in households

As artificial intelligence and robotics advance, there will be further evolutions of the smart home to come. Tech is becoming ever more intuitive and adaptable to people’s lifestyles, wants and needs. Examples of this include vacuum cleaners that roam the house and the emergence of humanoid robotics that can assist with some aspects of personal care.

This presents an enormous opportunity for tech to help older and disabled people live independent, rewarding lives in their own homes.

Smart home tech is also very quickly becoming the norm, with Ofcom research estimating that one in two households in the UK have a smart speaker.

However, as more and more people have this tech in their homes, the stakes are higher. If we do not design smart home tech in a way that makes it easy for older and disabled people to use, they risk being cut off from our increasingly tech-heavy world.

Increasing usability through collaboration

We must provide the right support services. We must design tech together with older and disabled people so that we can make sure it is easy for them to use.

Policy Connect’s recent report, Smarter Homes for Independent Living, studies the barriers that stop older and disabled people from making the best use of tech in their homes. The report makes recommendations to the Government on how to break down those barriers and unleash the potential of smart home tech to support independent living.

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