The ageing population. | Photo Credit: University of Manchester

Societies are Technologically Advancing, But Where are the Elderly?

By 2050, the proportion of the world’s population that is over 60 years old will nearly double from 12 per cent in 2015 to 22 per cent. Now, countries are making a technological shift: more incorporation of technology in people’s livelihoods, more reliance on technology, and more usage of technology to improve the lives of everyone. But, if the world’s ageing population is increasing in numbers, will this technological shift leave this vulnerable group of people out? Here is how Homage, a caregiving startup, makes use of technology in a way that is truly for the good of society.

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Singapore’s Smart Nation scheme enables the leveraging of technology for society as a whole to progress; putting the emergence of a digital economy, government and society at the forefront. 

But it’s not just Singapore that emphasises technology for the betterment of society. Other countries like Switzerland, Finland, and South Korea have also been ramping up efforts to get their populations accustomed to the incorporation of technology into their livelihoods. 

Some are sceptical of this rampant shift in the adoption of technology due to the opening of a door to other forms of insecurity, while others posit it to be highly beneficial, and to some extent, necessary. 

Both of these views are valid, depending on how technology is being harnessed. 

A study by the Pew Research Organisation highlighted that even though technology has great potential in improving the lives of people around the world, the main concern is when some of these people are unable or less able to access these benefits, resulting in them bearing the brunt of falling behind in an increasingly technologically reliant landscape. 

The rapid advancement of technology is worrying when one thinks of the number of people who are left out of this journey. Take into consideration the ageing population. 

Struggles to Keep Up with Technological Advancements

According to the World Health Organisation, one in six people in the world will be 60 years old or older by 2030 (which is just eight years away from now), bringing the total share of the world’s ageing population to 1.4 billion. This number is predicted to double by 2050. 

Notably, the number of those aged 80 and over is expected to triple from 2020 to 2050. Moreover, this shift in the distribution of a country’s ageing population used to be observed in high-income countries. 

That is not the case today. Now, low and middle-income countries are experiencing this shift and the study by WHO foresees two-thirds of the world’s ageing population coming from middle-income countries. 

Having a larger ageing population is a good thing— it indicates that people are healthier to live longer lives as compared to the past, where conditions of life were not as well met as in the present time. 

However, despite some countries trying their best to be inclusive towards the elderly by implementing upskilling sessions for them or using technology to aid in their health issues, countries need to do more, for the number of people in this group is set to increase in the coming years; governments need to learn how to best incorporate technology to their lives without forcing it upon them. 

One such organisation that uses technology to help this group of people is Singaporean start-up Homage, a caregiving company, that was established in 2017 as an app. 

Homage provides on-demand curated and trained professionals (Care Professionals) with smart technology by connecting Care Professionals to Care Receivers, which in this case are the elderly and adults who require caregiving.  

The Homage team. | Photo Credit: Homage 

From mobility to medical conditions such as chronic and terminal illnesses, Homage’s Care Professionals are ready to help them by providing the necessary social and personal care.

Core services range from care assessments to activities of daily Living (ADL) assistance to even home nursing procedures and home rehabilitation services. 

A Care Recipients’ personality, medical and health requirements are taken into consideration when a Care Professional from Homage’s regional network of 15,000 prescreened and trained care professionals are paired with them.  

The best part— they operate in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, which means these services can be provided to the elderly, even when immediate family members might be living abroad.

How Technology Saves Lives

Living far away from a loved one that requires medical attention can be taxing, as Care Owner (the one who calls for Homage’s services) Patzy Low shares. 

Patzy and her family who are living in Australia only get to see her mother-in-law who lives in Malaysia once every three to four years. “[W]hile she is physically well and can carry out most daily living activities independently, she suffers from major depression and stays at home most of the time”, Patzy shares.

She adds that this was especially worrying during COVID-19 as her mother-in-law’s relationship with her daughter and family was further strained due to the lack of physical interaction and communication. 

This situation led to her mother-in-law’s depression escalating, leading to her incapability of self-care, which rang alarms for Patzy and her family that home care needed to be provided for her. 

“We needed help from a nurse or care worker to regularly visit and check in on her physical and emotional well-being.”

Patzy Low’s family and her mother-in-law. | Photo Credit: Homage

Then came a referral from Patzy’s sister to Homage, which ultimately led Patzy to use their services for her mother-in-law in October 2021. 

“Friends and family also felt positive about Homage as the home-care services allowed her to stay in her own home, instead of being sent to the hospital or an aged care facility”, reasoned Patzy.

Care Professional Mei Quin Cheong handles Patzy’s mother-in-law’s regular medications and reports to Patzy’s family if the medical supply is running low. She also aided in finding solutions for requests that Patzy’s family made from Australia such as liaising with local home visiting doctors, collecting e-scripts to purchase medicine from pharmacies and providing timely reports.

“This provided much-needed reassurance for all involved”, said Patzy, who further shared that Homage’s services gave her and her family transparency on her mother-in-law’s health status, while also addressing the questions they had. 

“They also raised any concerns for us to keep an eye out for which allowed us to act sooner”.

Patzy emphasised that finding the right support for her mother-in-law was particularly tricky as it was not her physical health they were most concerned about, but her mental and emotional health. “The caregiver had to be the right cultural and personality fit”, and it seems that Homage has done a pairing that delivers. 

Care Professional Mei Quin who works at the hospital as a staff nurse in an ICU department also shares that caregiving is an absolute joy to partake in. “I treated her like I would treat my grandmother. I was a patient listener and also shared my day-to-day life with her, which helped us grow closer over time.”

Technology — Friend or Foe?

Homage’s services are a prime example of how technology can be leveraged to include the elderly in the technological loop. 

Through the use of technology that aids in international communications and human resource management, Homage can provide care for the vulnerable, no matter if they live in the same country as their familial counterparts or if they live oceans away. 

“The relationships built with the caregivers through regular visits were what she needed. My mother-in-law needed someone she could trust to freely share her worries, and the nurse had to be equipped with the skills to support her through her negative and worrying thoughts”, shares Patzy. 

Moreover, Homage’s services were also used during the pandemic, which indicates how their technology was able to sustain this vision of helping people who require on-demand care even during times of uncertainty. 

Homage. | Photo Credit: Homage 

This inclusivity is what societies need in order to truly progress as technologically advanced entities and make the most of this demographic shift that is already happening.

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