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Digital inclusion in care, retirement, and supported living - Why WiFi is a must have

Internet access was defined as a human right in 2016 and yet, despite the clear benefits of using WiFi to drive digital inclusion, digital care and digital transformation, its provision in care and supported living accomodation is worryingly low. 


 

A survey of 2,803 care homes in 2019 by carehomes.co.uk, revealed that 16 percent of staff stated that they were unsure if WiFi was available in their home and 45 percent said that WiFi was available in communal areas.

Minister for Care at the time, Caroline Dinenage, said of the findings:

 


 

Why does digital inclusion in care, retirement, and supported living matter?

Research by the Office of National Statistics shows that the number of older adults who use computers and access the internet, along with all of the benefits the digital world provides, is proportionately lower than younger generations.

Whilst part of this may be due to a lack of motivation, interest, skills, knowledge or due to fear, many homes and living schemes fail to provide residents with the basic level of connectivity they need to get online.

The evidence showing the value of internet access to older people, however, is clear. Benefits include reducing social isolation and loneliness by helping people to stay connected or reconnect with others, accessing key services online such as shopping, getting help and information, learning and education, as well as pursuing hobbies and interests.

Driving digital inclusion through public WiFi can help providers meet their wellbeing responsibilities for the people they care for, at the same time as driving digital transformation within their organisation to reduce costs, create efficiencies whilst maintaining high quality services.

Providing WiFi means residents can also access a provider’s online services and platforms such as Universal Credit.

Another advantage of providing free WiFi is that it allows telecare, IoT and smart care technologies to deployed over the same infrastructure. Digital warden call and monitoring systems, smart blinds, heating and lighting systems for example, can run over the same network.

This not only maximises return on investment, but it also means one point of call for a scheme manager or telecare monitoring centre making network management and care easier, as well as allowing residents to use smart technology for ‘self-care’ granting them greater independence.

 


 

Demand for free WiFi is increasing

Residents using free WiFi.jpgThe generational divide in those using the internet is narrowing as more people over the age of 65 get online and as younger generations who more likely to be digitally savvy move into this age bracket who expect digital solutions and the internet as a basic provision.

For care, retirement, and supported living providers this means that more and more customers are demanding WiFi and considering it as a factor when choosing somewhere to live.

A recent survey by housing provider Anchor Hanover into what customers felt made the perfect retirement village, found that 65% of people listed broadband as ‘very important’.

 


 

Providing WiFi doesn’t require a huge investment

Many providers believe that the cost of providing free WiFi is huge and installing it is too disruptive, but this simply isn’t the case. Plug-and-play solutions, such as YorWiFi©, are a rapidly deployable and low-cost method of providing customers with WiFi access both in communal areas and into their living spaces.

In many circumstances, providers can also leverage rather than replace their existing infrastructure or use the opportunity to rationalise existing assets within their schemes and homes to reduce overall costs.

More so, the return on investment should more than make up for cost of deploying WiFi through increased customer service levels, efficiencies, greater wellbeing - all discussed above - as well as, allowing providers to keep up with their competition. If a customer has two identical schemes to choose from, one with free WiFi and the other without, they are more likely to choose the former!

Some providers may argue that their residents already have the choice to purchase their own broadband services from mainstream providers and that telecare services can be delivered using this existing connectivity.

This is true but because it does not guarantee that all residents will have internet access which makes driving a digital transformation or telecare project forward difficult. It also means that providers have little control over the underlying IT infrastructure such services are delivered making them more difficult to manage.

 


 

The future of care and housing is digital

The benefits and demand for internet access and WiFi in care, retirement and supported living homes are clear. The cost of providing such access is low and, given the future of care and housing will be driven by digital technology, it is well-worth the investment.

Demand for digitally enabled homes will only continue to grow and so it is essential that providers not only consider their options for meeting this demand, but also how they can use the internet and WiFi to improve their existing customer’s happiness and wellbeing, as well as meet their organisational objectives.

 


 

If you are considering installing or upgrading your public WiFi offering check out YorWiFi. If you’re considering implementing a telecare or IoT care solution which requires WiFi and expert advice contact us!

 

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Our core ethos and business model is built around the belief that we must make access to quality Broadband and the Digital World is available to ALL, regardless of location or financial status.  We always strive deliver real benefit to the people, communities and organisations we work with and are committed to delivering a high quality and fairly priced range of products & services to our Customers at ALL times.  These are values we believe are clearly evidenced by the fact that we are a Certified ADR Provider through Ombudsman Services. 

     

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