New council scheme to encourage use of assistive tech among ‘sceptical elderly’

A council in England has received a £25,000 grant from the Local Government Association (LGA) which it will use to develop a project aimed at getting more elderly people to use assistive technology and care devices in their homes.

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council’s pilot scheme is one of seven others in the country and is using behavioural science to increase the use of assistive technology among elderly people by between 10% and 12% in the next 12 months.

Project manager Dave Tyrell admitted that it was a battle to get many elderly people to adopt assistive technology even though it is affordable.

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He told UKAuthority: “I think people are sometimes put off because they think of technology as being complicated.

“We want to look at what people understand about how it works, with the key words being ‘awareness’ and ‘training’.”

The council has taken two approaches to overcome the issue of cost, which often puts users off, according to Tyrell. The council will offer people devices free-of-charge for 12 weeks and will also offer it freely for a period after being discharged from hospital.

After this initial approach there is the potential to apply other aspects of behavioural science to increase the amount of elderly people taking up assistive tech products.

Tyrell added: “We’re also looking to change the way we present the technology through our social work teams. We have about 250 practitioners and we want them to be able to show people it can be good for them.”

“One of our targets is people who might be in great need and can use the technology as a prevention measure. It could be as simple and presentable as an Amazon Echo device.”

In total, the LGA has set aside £175,000 for local authorities to experiment with how behavioural insights can help with services such as adult social care. There are currently six other similar projects running in the UK.

Councillor Paul Bettison, chair of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, said: “Councils are experiencing both a fall in resources but at the same time an increase in demand, and are under more pressure than ever before. As a result they are increasingly turning to behavioural insight techniques as really effective ways of managing demand for local services.

“To help support this work, the LGA is funding a series of behavioural insight projects in a bid to encourage innovation, which can then be shared across the country for other organisations to benefit from. We look forward to seeing this latest phase build on the success of the previous rounds.”

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