It is quite an enticing proposition to start with a colourful lament of the crisis that currently grips aged care, however that is not my personality nor the mindset of any of my peers and colleagues working on innovations and technologies to assist the sector combat many of the entrenched, systemic challenges.
While many of you will look at the various failings of the aged care system with fear and trepidation, I choose to look at the coming years with hope and excitement. I firmly believe a new era is coming, an era where we will finally be given greater control over how we age, and where we age.
We knew that aged care was in crisis, long before the COVID-19 pandemic, we could see the tsunami approaching and did all we could to warn the public, the media, and our elected officials about what lay ahead. People nodded their heads and agreed that we needed to do something and then went about their day, but in the corridors of Residential Aged Care facilities, in the lecture theatres of universities and even sitting on the corner stools at the pubs around Australia there were bright, inquisitive minds collaborating on how to put dignity and respect back into the lives of our elderly.
When I first started Sleeptite in May 2017, and labelled it an ‘Aged Care Innovation and Technology’ company, people didn’t believe that there was such a thing and they always asked me “why aged care?” There was this strange, commonly held, misconception that you couldn’t innovate for the elderly. Now, this article is not to tell you about why I started Sleeptite, it’s to identify and highlight a growing group of incredible people that are set to revolutionise the aged care sector through resourcefulness, perseverance, and the support of the broader community.
There must have been something in the water in 2017, because that was also the year that Merlin Kong joined the team at LASA as the Head of the newly created InnovAGEING. Merlin will tell you that not long after he started, he received a phone call from a young, hungry start-up called Sleeptite wanting to change the world through non-invasive sensors, integrated into mattress protectors. Back then, we were a very small eco-system of entrepreneurs, innovators, and dreamers.
Fast forward to 2021, a year that I believe was a breakout year for innovation in the aged care sector. Whether it was CareTeq preparing to list on the ASX with their commercialisation of the SofiHub program, or Colin Pudsey from SilVR Adventures gaining more traction within various types of aged care facilities to help their consumers experience travel when they were long past getting on a plane, or Tamar Krebs breathing new life into ‘Group Homes’ as an aged care service delivery model. The community of innovators is thriving and the level of support from our peers is allowing us to push further and faster with our ambitions.
Ahead of the 2021 InnovAGEING National Awards, Merlin Kong and I took some time to reflect on just how far the sector had come in four (4) years, and the growth in the number of companies and individuals that are putting their efforts into advancing the care and support for our elderly. It provides great hope for the future, particularly as we see more and more collaborations arising from the various organisations that are innovating in the space.
One of the clearest signs that the broader Australian research, innovation, and technology sector is accepting aged care as a genuine pathway for product development was the acknowledgement of Sleeptite’s REMi product as a Finalist in the Best MedTech/BioTech category at the 2021 InnovationAus Awards for Excellence. Whilst the top step went to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute on the night for their advancements in genomic testing, we were humbled to receive an Honourable Mention by the judges for the creation of our world-first, non-invasive, nighttime monitoring system for aged care consumers.
It's often said that it takes a village to raise a child, and I like to think that it takes a community to develop a technology. Sleeptite would not be the business it is, with the products it has without the support of the broader aged care innovation sector’s support. When it comes to innovating, we truly are stronger together.