UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


IHE Deputy-Director Ann Blandford gives evidence to Lords’ Inquiry into Ageing

11 February 2020

Ann gave evidence on how technology can monitor and treat age-related health conditions.

British Houses of Parliament

On Tuesday 4 February, Prof Ann Blandford, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction and IHE Deputy-Director (Digital) gave spoken evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee’s inquiry into Ageing: Science, Technology and Healthy Living. This followed on from an earlier submission of written evidence by UCL academics.

The inquiry held two sessions last Tuesday. The first looked at how technology can help us overcome barriers that are caused by poor health in old age and the second examined how technology can monitor or even treat health conditions. Ann took part in the second discussion.

When asked about the current research environment in the UK, Ann discussed potential barriers to improvements in healthy ageing technology, including a lack of cohesion among funding schemes and a focus on innovation, rather than developing the right technology.

Ann also spoke about the ethical implications of healthcare technology in the home that gathers data:

“There are also questions about informed consent and understanding what data is being gathered, what is being done with that data and how it informs service delivery. These are really big questions that we have not yet got very far in addressing as a society”.

The discussion later turned to whether healthcare academics and companies had a clear sense of what medical devices need to be developed in order to achieve the Government’s vision of “ensuring people can enjoy at least five extra healthy independent years of life” by 2035.

Ann noted that interdisciplinary collaboration will be essential to achieving this:

“Moving in the right direction will involve engineers, social scientists, members of the public and regulators of many different authorities working together to a degree that, I think it is fair to say, we have not worked together in the past”.

Following the session, she commented that “This is an important inquiry that should change perceptions, behaviours, and policy around ageing well. This isn’t just about “old age” but about living well at all ages. Well-designed technologies, deployed sensibly, have an important role to play in this.”


UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering: healthy ageing

Technology to support healthy ageing is a research priority for the Institute of Healthcare Engineering.

In February 2019, we held the UCL Healthy Ageing Symposium which brought together academics, industry leaders and charity representatives. Read our report from the event.

Photo by Dominika Gregušová from Pexels