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Smart technology and Dementia Friendly Awards

In her latest News Space blog, Age Space’s Annabel James looks at news and views about elderly care and carers…

There are plenty of really interesting smart technology developments at the moment. And they have the potential to improve care for the most vulnerable or lonely older people.

For instance, it was announced this week that Britain’s first dementia-friendly village, with talking houses and adjustable street signs, is being developed in Rutland.

The roads will be in a grid layout to help residents find their way. Paths will have sloping ramps rather than steps to prevent falls. One of the most important features will be voice prompts on some front doors, to tell dementia patients they have arrived at the right home. Once built the village will also provide cheap housing for hundreds of families, young couples and professionals.

We watch with interest! Find out more here

Alexa… Call me an ambulance

We know that plenty of older people are loving Alexa, the Amazon Echo’s helpful assistant and home DJ!

But it seems that smart speakers could one day pick up if someone is suffering a cardiac arrest and call emergency services, research suggests. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, which often causes a sufferer to produce a ‘guttural, gasping noise’.

Researchers have developed a new tool for devices such as an Amazon Alexa that detects this disrupted breathing and contacts emergency services. When tested on real calls, the tool picked up on cardiac arrests 97 per cent of the time, even when the gasping sound was 20ft (6m) away from the receiver.

The online lunch party

Online lunch clubs are the start of a remote care revolution to reduce the spiralling costs of caring for older people in Finland.

Remote care nurse Duvi Leineberg does her lunch rounds. But instead of jumping in a car and visiting each person one by one, she is sitting in an office looking at a large computer screen where she can see into seven people’s homes. Most are sitting at a table preparing to tuck into some food.

This is a virtual lunch group, set up to make sure older people receiving home care services in the city eat regularly and at the right time. The virtual lunch group is one aspect of Helsinki’s remote care – where clients have a tablet that links up with remote care nurses in a service centre. Remote care appointments are set up to check on clients throughout the day and to make sure they take the relevant medication. More to read on this here

So is mum eating enough?

We’re bombarded with stories about obesity, so it’s a shock to discover one in ten over-65s is malnourished, or at risk of malnutrition.

The key to addressing malnutrition in elderly people, Dr Simon Gabe, consultant gastroenterologist and expert in nutrition, believes, is raising awareness and knowing how to spot the tell-tale signs in yourself and your loved ones. “It might be something as small as loose rings, dentures and clothes,” he advises.

You can check whether you or someone you know is at risk by using the malnutrition self-screening tool: ( The site also has dietary advice. “We’d like people to undergo self-screening then seek advice, and would like to see it become compulsory that patients are assessed for their nutritional state whenever they are in a health care setting,” says Dr Gabe. Read more here

Teeth matter

Grim news this week as the Care Quality Commission warns that care home residents did not always have access to dentists and were not getting the support they needed to look after their teeth.

One in six care homes also said they did not assess residents’ oral health on admission. One in three said they could not always access dental care, mainly related to the lack of specialist dental services that visit people in the community rather than expecting them to attend clinics.

It’s another thing for the list, but if mum or dad do go into a care home and may have dental issues, we and they need to make sure it’s flagged up with the staff – and the situation monitored. Read the BBC report here

And finally…

Do you know a person, organisation or community who has made a real change to the lives of people with dementia? If so, the Alzheimer’s Society wants to hear from you. Nominations are now open for the sixth Dementia Friendly Awards.

The awards celebrate and showcase the achievements of individuals, groups and organisations across the UK who have led the way on creating dementia-friendly communities and improving the lives of everybody affected by dementia. Nominations close on Friday 9 August.