Tag elderly people, says science minister

Thursday April 19, 2007 

Elderly people should be "tagged" to enable the authorities to keep tabs on them, a government minister suggested today.

Science minister Malcolm Wicks said satellite technology could be used to allow families to monitor frail or elderly relatives, it was reported today.

According to the Mirror newspaper, Mr Wicks said many families worried about elderly relatives or "what's happening about an 80 or 90-year-old who may have Alzheimer's", and using the technology could let them know their loved one was safe.

Mr Wicks said: "Satellites currently monitor the planet in a variety of different ways. I'm raising this as an issue for discussion. Are there other uses of technology that could benefit society?

"We've got an ageing population with many people frail and many suffering from dementia, including Alzheimer's.

"How can we get the balance right so that these people have the freedom to live their lives, to go out in the community and go shopping?"

Similar technology is used to "tag" and keep track of convicted criminals who have been released from prison.

Paul Bates, a spokesman for charity Help the Aged, said he did not rule out Mr Wicks' suggestion.

"As long as this is sensibly handled, modern technology can play an important role in securing dignity for vulnerable older people," he said.

"Help the Aged would not dismiss this out of hand and we would not want to label this as 'tagging'. What this potentially could be is modern technology being used to bring reassurance and stability for families with vulnerable older relatives."



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