Towards a senior home of the future

Today, every fifth Finn is over 65 years of age. When looking ten years ahead, more than one quarter of the population − approximately 1.5 million people − will be in the retirement age. Looking even further into the future, in 2050 almost every third Finn is expected to have turned 65.[1] There will be demand for different kinds of services for the elderly.

Need for versatile services in the “silver economy”

The term “silver economy” has been coined to describe the service needs and wishes of the ageing population. They create the foundation for new business activities in strong growth in such areas as well-being, mobility, housing, health care and care. A large group of people who have left the working life behind are leading active and healthy lives for several years or decades before experiencing major slowing down or restrictions in their functional ability caused by ageing. They use many kinds of services supporting their well-being, and when restrictions begin to emerge, it is worthwhile to develop services for them for winning these obstacles.

Services are needed in the home environment in particular. In Finland, nine out of ten people who have turned 75 live at home, and at 85 four out of five still continue to live at home[2]. However, usually ageing begins to affect the functional capacity of even healthy people after the age of 80.

Independent everyday life is valuable

Even though there are substantial differences between individuals, the number of people getting home care services is increasing. The share of elderly households that have received domestic help over the past year increased by 17 per cent between 2010 and 2017[3], and the need for support provided at home can be expected to keep increasing in the future. The number of people with memory disorders is estimated to multiply in Europe within the next few decades[4], and even today every third person turned 85 is suffering from a memory disorder[5]. Living alone combined with a memory disorder is a particularly difficult equation.

In the silver economy, there is a vast potential particularly in the development of active and independent senior life, safe ageing and efficient home care. New kinds of solutions are needed for everyday services, housing, communality and the maintenance of personal well-being.

Intelligent services must be developed jointly and ethically

Digitalisation means a change that allows the extensive use of emerging technologies and intelligent services in support of well-being. Individual solutions are not enough: we need an entire package where healthcare and social welfare services, housing and transport infrastructures, civic participation and means of co-creation are developed. The digital transition in service provision falls short without the participation of those who use or take advantage of the services and a change in behaviours. Ethical debate is also important.

The Well-being and Health Sector’s Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Programme (Hyteairo) led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will support and speed up the utilisation of artificial intelligence and robotics in such matters as living at home, well-being coaching, rehabilitation and pharmacotherapy. The programme is kind of a co-development platform and open network, in whose meetings various parties – such as companies developing technologies, providers of services for the elderly, senior associations and researchers – meet and discuss the role of emerging technologies in well-being services. The information and different ideas are put into practice in the operating environment of each participant. One of the efforts taken by the Hyteairo programme will be seen at the HIMSS 2019 conference: a future home, where senior residents take care of their well-being with the help of Finnish technologies and smart services.

Read the blog of Jaana Leikas , Principal Scientist at VTT, on the ethics of artificial intelligence: https://vttblog.com/2018/12/11/tekoalyn-etiikka-mista-ylipaataan-puhutaan/
Read more about the Hyteairo programme: https://stm.fi/en/the-well-being-and-health-sector-s-artificial-intelligence-and-robotics-programme-hyteairo-
Read more about VTT’s Digital Health services: https://www.vttresearch.com/services/health-and-wellbeing/digital-health

Marketta_Niemela

Marketta Niemelä
Principal Scientist
marketta.niemela@vtt.fi

[1] Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Population projection [online publication]. ISSN=1798-5137. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [Referred to on: 13 May 2019]. http://www.stat.fi/til/vaenn/index_en.html

[2] Sotkanet statistics: People living at home in 2017

[3] Sotkanet statistics: The number of households which have received domestic help with a member aged 85 or over

[4] https://thl.fi/fi/web/kansantaudit/muistisairaudet/muistisairauksien-yleisyys

[5] http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/160520/6%202018%20SM%20Turvallinen%20elama%20ikaantyneille.pdf

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