22 April 2019

At first glance, this robotic car would be something you’d expect to find patrolling the surface of Mars in a science fiction movie.

In fact, the car - with the rather down-to-earth name of Elliot - is prowling the streets of a South Australian retirement village and is part of a push by the State’s government to become a centre for ageing services innovation.

Autonomous vehicle technology provider Aurrigo has launched the vehicle at the Lendlease owned Elliot Gardens retirement village at coastal Port Elliot (south of Adelaide).

The trial will examine whether autonomous technology can deliver improved mobility for the 330 residents living in 194 villa homes at the 27-hectare village.

Up to four passengers can travel in the battery-powered vehicle, which has speeds of up to 10km/h and follows a set route between 9am-4pm.

To take a gentle spin around the village, residents can hail Elliot at the community centre or, when it is passing, by SMS or phone.

It is a legislative requirement that a human “chaperone” rides with the vehicle, along with the passengers.

Tony Randello, Managing Director, Lendlease Retirement Living said: “We are constantly looking for ways to make our villages more liveable which is why we’re tremendously excited to be participating in this trial.”

“This trial may show us how technology could extend mobility and help our resident’s age in place, among friends and providing them a sense of freedom and independence. We also expect the trial will show that no matter how old you are, you can always embrace new technology into your lifestyle.”

The robotic car trial is part of a broader strategy by the South Australian Government to develop the State as the place to be when it comes to innovation and technology in retirement living and ageing health services.

Elliot goes for a toddle down the road

SA ageing services innovation funding and support

Last year, the SA Government contributed $10 million to create a Global Centre for Modern Ageing (GCMA), which is based at the Tonsley innovation precinct in Adelaide’s south (where Mitsubishi cars were manufactured until 2008).

According to the GCMA’s CEO Julianne Parkinson, the organisation will “play a leading role in assisting business to realise the opportunities of increasing numbers of older people and to be at the forefront of modern ageing in Australia and the world.”

“With the oldest population of all mainland Australian states, South Australia has a global role to play in developing innovative products and services for this growing ageing population,” Ms Parkinson said.

The GMCA will assess the success (or otherwise) of the rollout of the robotic car at Port Elliot, which will include collecting resident feedback.

Separately, the GCMA has set up a LifeLab, where innovators in the ageing services industry can road-test new products, including with trial groups of consumers.

“In addition to the Aurrigo project, we also have the privilege of currently working alongside SA Health, Country Health and the Strathalbyn Community in a co-design process to inform the future design of a new aged care precinct in Strathalbyn that will better meet the needs of the community now and into the future,” Ms Parkinson said.

“In the near future, we will also be delivering projects alongside Bank SA and Better Homes and Gardens to name a few.”

SA also the location of an aged care hi-tech surveillance trial

More recently, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has announced the State will be partnering with the Australian Government to be the location of an Australian-first trial of closed circuit TV (CCTV) surveillance in aged care facilities, to better protect the safety and well-being of residents.

The CCTV technology detects excessive noise and movement and light changes, triggering an alert to a reviewer who can view the footage within seconds of an event happening.

Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt said: “Covert filming by individuals has sadly exposed poor quality of care and malpractice in some aged care settings.”

“The community has been asking for this and today we deliver an initiative which will result in stronger protections for our elderly residents, reduced adverse incidents and improved standards of care.”

Patients and their families have the right to switch off cameras, although it is anticipated many will support the filming.

By Mark Skelsey, News Editor at Downsizing.com.au. Email Mark at news@downsizing.com.au