David McCullough, Chief Executive of the WRVS (formerly the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service) is reported as having a pop at telecare (or is it telehealth?) services for increasing social isolation because they help keep people at home. Assuming he’s not been misreported you’d think he’d have something better to do – and besides, where’s the evidence? Online services ‘isolating’ elderly people on the publicservice.co.uk website.
If this is the case why is client/patient satisfaction of telecare and home telehealth systems repeatedly reported in the high 90% range?
I would argue very strongly that telecare and assistive technologies ARE the 21st century versions of support that Professor Beresford is looking for. They can empower people to exercise choice in where and how they are going to live if an when they become to weak or vulnerable to do things for themselves. The Internet, and the personal advice, information and video-based conversations and consultations that it enables allow people to throw of the shackles of immobility and open up a world where geography has become history. They can speak to their friends and family wherever they are in the world, as well as making new contacts who share the same interests – this is the social networking of the community centre opened up in a world where there need be no restricted opening hours, and no expensive travelling to consider.
We need voluntary organisations, including the WRVS to embrace the new technologies and to help older people to make the most of the new opportunities. In fact, doesn’t the low-tech approach of the WRVS complement telecare services allowing vulnerable people to be protected (in the broadest meaning of the term) by telecare on a 24/7 basis so that all the time spent with visitors can be quality time?