A CUTTING-edge housing initiative developed in Easter Ross could provide the "game-changing" template to help people with complex health needs to achieve the dream of living independently in their own homes.
The opening of a "FitHome" village at Dalmore in Alness this week is the culmination of years of partnership work between Invergordon-based social homes provider Albyn Housing Society, NHS Highland and Easter Ross-based Carbon Dynamic.
Hopes are high the pilot project, which use cutting edge data-gathering technology and artificial intelligence to help detect the onset of ill health and potentially even prevent episodes such as falls, could help revolutionise health care.
The Dalmore development is now home to 14 residents whose ages range from 18 to 90.
One of them, Dylan Bogue (19), who lives with muscular dystrophy, said: "Living in the new house has given me my independence back, I used to live with my dad – which was great – but being in a home that I can now call my own is amazing. I didn’t think this would ever be possible and now that I’m here, it’s even better than I thought it would be.
"The homes feel like any regular home but with the added benefit of having my wellbeing monitored around the clock. My dad has real peace of mind that I am living somewhere that is looking after me – there’s no way that he would have been as chilled about me leaving home if I was going into regular accommodation. Actually, I don’t think it would have happened.
"This will be a life-changing concept for some individuals, including me, and importantly their extended families. Nobody will have to worry about their elderly relatives, or younger relatives for that matter, being on their own if they fall or have an accident. Most importantly, residents can stay in their home, in the community that they have grown with for as long as they feel able to."
The origins of the FitHome go back to 2008 when a tenant was found dead in his home, having lain unnoticed for over a year. Vowing to put new preventative systems in place, Albyn commissioned new research exploring potential solutions only to find that the ideal fix didn’t yet exist. As a result, the society decided to develop its own system that could be adopted across its growing portfolio of homes.
Albyn head of innovation Lucy Fraser: "At the heart of the FitHome concept is a shared vision which states that everyone should have the choice to live safe and well in their homes and communities for as long as they want." She believes the model can be replicated elsewhere.
Matt Stevenson, managing director of Carbon Dynamic said: "I truly believe that this housing method can change the way that we view construction of new housing developments as well as feeding into the wider healthcare and societal issues that continue to challenge our communities."