As people are living longer, the UK’s health and social services are under increasing pressure to help older people live safely, comfortably and independently, and engineering technology will play an important part in looking after Britain’s ageing population.

Health and social care professionals, academics and industry experts will provide insights into the role that technology can play in the cost effective care of older people, at a conference on designing cost-effective care for older people organised by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Age UK.

Pam Turpin, Healthcare Consultant at Arup, will discuss the perfect design for care homes from layout and facilities to the incorporation of cutting-edge technologies. Mike Biddle, Innovation Platform Leader – Assisted Living, at the Technology Strategy Board, will question how innovation can help older people live independently, while Professor Paul Watson, Director of the Digital Institute at Newcastle University, will reveal what ground-breaking technologies could enable older people to continue living in their homes.

Noel Sharkey, Professor of Artificial intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield, will explore the ethical implications of using service robots to care for older people. The advances in robotics that could benefit society and empower the elderly to create more opportunities for social interaction, if technology is used effectively and sensitively.

Rt Hon David Blunkett, MP for Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough, said: “At a time when our population will be ageing beyond the imagination of anyone in the immediate post-war era, we need both innovation and creativity to help us cope as individuals and offer support as a society. Tele-care and Tele-medicine make such a contribution to allowing people to continue living independently and to providing confidence and reassurance both to elders and to their family and carers.”

“A combination of engineering ingenuity and thoughtfulness about ensuring new technological devices are accessible can make all the difference in helping people manage basic tasks. Coupled with good design, engineering enterprise can be as much about social wellbeing as our future economic success.”

Linda McAven, MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber, said: "With almost a quarter of the population expected to be over 65 by 2034 we know that there will be a dramatic increase in the amount of people suffering from dementia, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases, while there also be a greater demand on surgical implants like joint replacements."

"It is vital that governments and healthcare systems are prepared for this change, not just for the increase in people needing treatment but for the escalating costs this will inevitably involve. Engineering has a vital role to play, not only in ensuring that elderly people are able to live their lives in comfort and independence, but also by making care more affordable."

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, said: “One of the great achievements of our society is the increased life expectancy, but with it comes enormous challenges. Issues such as access to care, adaptations to people’s homes or expensive medical procedures are becoming increasingly commonplace and as a society we need to respond to them quickly. I’m delighted that engineers are recognising their contribution.”

Meg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley, said: “Before I entered parliament I worked in Social Services and found that most often people ended up in care because they and their families were worried that something might happen to them. Now we see technology that not only makes every day living easier but provides re-assurances to people and their families so they can continue to live at home for longer. I hope that the conference will inspire engineers and people involved in care to see that there can be a brighter future.”

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. Age UK, the UK’s largest charity for older people, was formed in 2009 to combine the operations of Age Concern and Help the Aged. It also includes separate but interdependent charities for the nations: Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI as well as its commercial services arm, Age UK Enterprises.

For more information please contact

Sarah Griffiths at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0655