South Africa’s growing elderly population (people aged 60 and over) is putting the spotlight on finding better ways to care for a demographic that numbers more than 9% of the country’s citizen, writes By Rudi Potgieter, Executive Head of Guardian Eye at Vox.

With 55% of respondents in a recent survey stating that they cannot afford to save towards retirement and living in a care facility, attention must turn to leveraging cost-effective and user-friendly technological innovations to unlock the potential for telecare.

Telecare can be defined as the continuous, automatic, and remote monitoring of real-time emergencies and lifestyle changes over time to manage the risks associated with independent living. In layman’s terms it enables vulnerable, elderly, and even disabled people to live longer on their own at home through remote monitoring and emergency alarms.

Of course, the amount of care required differs significantly from person to person. Typically, this would require a caregiver to be available when it comes to the potential for accidents and other events that can happen while the elderly person is on their own. This can include everything from an accidental fall, unexpected illness resulting in being unable to get out of bed, forgetting to perform routine tasks (such as closing and locking doors), and leaving the property without any form of communication.

Significantly, research has found that after road traffic injuries, falls are the leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. It is especially the elderly who is at risk suffering the greatest number of fatal falls with more than 80% of these occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Unfortunately, the high cost of full-time care makes it unaffordable for most South Africans to have a live-in caregiver. Also, the limited amount of frail care facilities in the country cannot meet the high demand. This means relatives and close friends are relied on to check in on the elderly living alone at home.

But if there is an emergency, these visits come too late to provide the immediate assistance required. It is especially the case for those living in rural areas where there is no immediate access to healthcare services. Up to now, those individuals could not simply press a button and have immediate help available to them.

Technology making a difference

In partnership with a global provider of a leading telecare and monitoring system, Vox is bringing even more innovation to its customer base that not only changes lives but saves them as well. In recent years, Vox has evolved from being a connectivity provider to a company that brings solutions to market that can positively impact on South Africans from all walks of life.

To this end, Vox ICE (In Case of Emergency) is a first of its kind in the country. It sees the international best practice combined with the local expertise and insights of Vox to deliver an affordable and user-friendly solution that addresses the problem of monitoring the elderly who live independently at home in a non-intrusive manner.

Designed and developed by several professionals from the medical, paramedical, and social sectors, Vox ICE consists of motion sensors installed at strategic places inside the house and a wearable alert pendant. This non-invasive solution runs movement data captured by the sensors through a deep learning engine that builds trends and events around the elderly person living on their own. Once an event outside the norm takes place, for example a fall or not locking the back door after a certain amount of time, an alert is sent to a predefined list of emergency contacts. This can either be the next of kin, a neighbour, a caregiver, a control centre (in the case of a frail care facility), or even emergency response.

Essentially, Vox ICE learns the habits and behaviours of the person it monitors and flags any potential issues in real-time before they become catastrophic. As this is a life-saving solution, it has built-in battery power and relies on the Sigfox global network dedicated to the Internet of Things based on low power, long range, and small data packets. This means no existing internet connectivity is required on site as it is a completely self-contained offering with everything built in to deliver a complete plug-and-play experience.

The pendant doubles as a panic button but can also send an alert if the person moves outside a specified area. It features an accelerometer that detects rapid movements based on complex algorithms to detect when a person falls outside the home.

Vox ICE is a completely modular subscription service that can be customised to the unique requirements of each individual customer. The data collected complies with local and international regulatory requirements giving people the peace of mind that their information remains safe.

It is the perfect non-invasive solution that provides telecare to South Africans irrespective of their physical location. With Vox it is about saving lives and delivering innovation that solves a significant human challenge through technology.

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