Autumn Lodge prepares for NBN connection

Published 20 February 2012

The presentation of a large flat-screen computer to Armidale’s Autumn Lodge aged care facility was the occasion for a demonstration of the benefits that connection to the National Broadband Network will bring to Autumn Lodge residents.

Malcolm Montiero, the General Manager of Silcar Communications, the company that laid fibre-optic cables in Armidale for NBN Co, said at the presentation event earlier this month that his company liked “to leave something with a community” after such a project. “We couldn’t think of anything better than this touch-screen computer for Autumn Lodge,” Mr Montiero said.

Alun Davies, Head of the NBN Workgroup and Regional Communications Advocate for New England, said that Autumn Lodge would be fully connected to the NBN in July. “It will be one of the first aged care facilities in Australia to be connected to the network,” he said.

The University of New England’s Associate Professor Stephen Winn, who leads a collaborative project that is using new communications technology to help elderly people live independently in their own homes, used the flat-screen computer to demonstrate the capability of the new technology. A live connection to the Armidale GP Dr Gary Baker gave Autumn Lodge residents an idea of its possibilities. “You’ll be able to consult a doctor who might not be able to get here to see you,” Dr Winn told them.

His project, in collaboration with CSIRO, Neuroscience Research Australia, and Autumn Lodge, and supported by the Australian Government’s NBN-Enabled Education and Skills Services Program, is called “Smarter Safer Homes”. The project team will use Autumn Lodge’s village units as a trial site for the use of the NBN-related technology by elderly people living independently. “This will provide evidence of the effectiveness of such technology in improving people’s quality of life by helping them to live independently, monitoring their health and wellbeing, and keeping them in touch with their families,” Dr Winn said. “Based on the evidence from this trial, the next phase of the project will involve extending the adoption of this technology – at minimal cost – into the wider community.”

“We’re heading for the virtual retirement village,” Mr Davies said. “Aged care facilities will never be able to cope with all the people retiring now. People want to stay in their own homes – and, with this technology, they will be able to do so while still enjoying the security of an Autumn Lodge.”

“The NBN connection will allow us to expand our IT infrastructure and take advantage of emerging technologies to improve our level of service and give residents the advantage of high-quality video communication with family, friends and medical specialists,” said Greg Clarke, Business and Housing Services Manager at Autumn Lodge.

During last week’s event Dr Stuart Smith, a Senior Research Officer with Neuroscience Research Australia, used the new flat-screen computer to demonstrate the use of a video dance game, explaining the effectiveness of stepping exercises in the prevention of falls. “Falls are one of the biggest problems facing our ageing society,” Dr Smith said. “We know that exercise is one of the best things to reduce the risk of falls, and that stepping can be improved through practice. If you’re worried about falling, this is a chance to reduce your fear.”

Under the guidance of Dr Smith, two of the Autumn Lodge residents – Anne Hearne and Marj Mason – demonstrated the use of the dance game (as pictured here). “You can use your score in this game to compete against your friends,” Dr Smith told the residents. “And, with the benefits of the NBN, you’ll be able to compete against people in other aged care facilities.”