Hft Smarthouse image

A pop-up, purpose-built house showcasing a range of assistive technology used to support vulnerable adults to live independently in their own homes went on display in Exeter last week.

Created by national learning disabilities charity Hft, the Smarthouse featured innovative, interactive technology, including a talking microwave, safety sensors to prevent flooding or injury, and finger-print activated door locks which replace the need for keys.

The Smarthouse was featured at the Matford Livestock Centre in Exeter from the 26th-28th of November and was funded by Devon County Council as part of its drive to see technology used more to enable people to live as independently as possible. The project aims to raise awareness of assistive technology and the outcomes it can deliver, as well as informing staff about how to obtain technology for their clients.

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At the event, social workers, carers, service users and council staff had the opportunity to experience interactive demonstrations of the types of technology used by Hft to help people live more independently and safely.

Technology on display included a ‘holiday kit’, which has transformed the lives of people like Anna, who is supported by the charity in Devon. Anna is passionate about exploring new places but staying away from home comes with some challenges, especially as she suffers from epilepsy. To allow her independence and security outside of her usual living environment, Hft supplied Anna with technology ranging from a door sensor to an epilepsy sensor, which detects repetitive movement and raises an alert on a staff pager if Anna has a seizure during the night.

For others, like Dale, technology includes support buttons, which allow him to alert a staff member quickly and easily if he needs support during the night. Able to be worn as a wristband or pendant, the buttons ensure that Dale is able to live independently, while still having the security of knowing that staff are on hand at night should they be needed.

Over the three days, Hft’s specialist Personalised Technology team – which offers training, assessment, installation, advice and consultancy services – ran a series of sessions for those wanting to try out the technology, learn more about how it works and ask questions.

Emma Nichols, Hft’s Personalised Technology Manager, said: “We were delighted to display our Smarthouse at this event, which was a great opportunity for people to find out more about the role of technology in enabling people with disabilities to live with as much independence, choice and control as possible.

“Every day we work with people with disabilities, their families and support staff to find creative ways to support people to achieve the things they want to do. It’s been really valuable to share our expertise with visitors to the Smarthouse and demonstrate how technology can discreetly fit into and enhance the quality of people’s lives.”

Established in 1962, Hft is a national charity supporting more than 2,500 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Services range from supported living to residential care – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day.

Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships, and to find work.

Devon County Council’s Chief Officer for adult social care Jennie Stephens concluded: “More and more people living with health and care needs are doing so safely at home, helped by technology. I believe that people are increasingly comfortable using technology and are embracing its potential across all aspects of their lives, including meeting health and care needs.

“That’s why events like these are so important to showcase the range of easy to use technology available from higher-tech sensors through to everyday household items that can make such a positive impact to people’s lives.”

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