Experts working across the field of disabled and older people have called for a national overall coherent plan to develop fully integrated systems and services which meet their needs.

Such an urgent need was expressed by speakers addressing some 80 delegates at a seminar held at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills [BIS], London, on June 15, and organised by the charity PhoneAbility in collaboration with BIS.

The delegates, from a wide range of businesses and services, were told that although there were many excellent pilot schemes for providing various components of such smart living systems and services there was a serious lack of an overall plan.

The roles of many sectors needed to be taken into account, including architecture, professional engineering, building, medicine, energy, communications, transport and organisations providing caring resources and bodies representing disabled and older people.

Without such a plan this fragmentary situation would worsen year by year for the 10 million Britons over the age of 65 (of whom five million are disabled) and for the 7 million disabled people of working age.

The plea for an overall plan was supported by Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of BRE (Building Research Establishment), in opening the seminar.

‘By 2050 half of us will be of pensionable age in the United Kingdom’, he said. ‘The homes and communities we build and retrofit today have to meet the needs of our future population. Our industry must begin to address the 'smart living' agenda and embrace the technologies that will keep us all living independently for longer in our own communities’.

‘There is a need for a consensus on a roadmap for future research in this area’, said Dr John Gill, chairman of the charity PhoneAbility. ‘This will need to include a quantified assessment of the needs of potential users and bearing in mind the obvious significant technological changes which will come about in the near future’, he said.

The seminar, entitled ‘Smart Living - the way forward for disabled and older people’, heard that telemedicine and telecare posed special problems in that there are many different professions running the services, and that they need appropriate back office systems which are also based on a common set of ethical and privacy standards. These services need to be fully integrated with the other smart living systems.

Several speakers said that there was need for a set of guidelines, to include ethical issues, training on the use of systems and devices, and a consistency of interfaces.

Other speakers included: Martyn Gilbert of UK3.0; Professor Patrick Roe of Cardiac; Peter Ball of BRE; Brian Collins, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Transport and BIS; Angela Single of Choose Independence; Colette Nicolle of Loughborough University; and Evelyn Pellow of Enabling Concepts.