With the number of Europeans aged over 60 set to double in the next 50 years, and the number of over-80s to triple, meeting future care needs and health costs of ageing populations is critical. How we best can use new technology in care services, and what policy options policy makers are faced with, have been central questions to the EU-financed PACITA project.
Technology can play an important role in many areas of the care sector, explains Hilde Lovett, project manager at the Norwegian Board of Technology:
“It can execute tasks, such as domestic chores, assist with medication or personal hygiene, and remind us of appointments and social occasions. It can increase mobility and active participation in society and help maintain and build social relations.”
But we should also be aware that new technology could bring negative and undesired consequences. If visits by healthcare personnel are replaced by technology and remote communication, the risk of loneliness and isolation could be high. That was one of the fears that came up at the PACITA workshops in2014.
Workshops in ten European countries
During the spring and summer of 2014, the PACITA project organized scenario workshops in ten European countries, engaging more than 330 stakeholders in discussion about care, technology and the future of ageing. The aim has been to identify policy options for European policy makers, and make recommendations on how we can deal with the dilemmas that will occur when technology is introduced in the care sector.
In addition to the workshops, the PACITA project has studied the current use of technology in different European countries, and how far decision-makers have come in making explicit policies on the topic.
A need for governmental strategies and solutions
Many of the stakeholders involved in the PACITA project emphasized the need for a governmental strategy to serve as the starting point. Stakeholders argued that a governmental health service has to be the starting point, to ensure that everyone receives basic care. On top of this, different approaches to implementing technology and new ways of organizing care services should be considered. Without such a fundamental strategy, stakeholders feared the development of a societal divide: seniors with wealth and who were technologically competent would be far better off than others.
Privacy and care – can we have both?
Privacy and data protection are two issues that were considered very important by stakeholders. If the care sector were to start relying on self-monitoring, home alarm systems and GPS tracking, for example, there need to be new regulations and routines that can handle the growing amount of data which will be generated. Who should be allowed access to these data? Should relatives be able to monitor their loved ones any time they want? How would you feel about your children being able to track your movements with a GPS? Would you be more comfortable moving to a care facility where there are personnel who can watch out for you?