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Welcome back to Part 3 of Bora Health’s series of articles on solving the problem of maintaining independent living for an ageing world through the use of high quality yet affordable life saving assistive technology.

Part 3 gives you an overview of the various solutions available to an ageing Australian population facing challenges maintaining independent living:


High Level Solutions:

Considering an ageing population, the Government’s decreasing ability to bear the financial responsibility of supporting seniors requiring assisted living  and the majority of retiring Australians’ inability to self-fund, addressing how ageing Australians can maintain independent living safely and affordably becomes a higher priority. For the purposes of this paper, we will focus on Assistive Technology.

Assistive technology (AT) is any device, system or design that allows an individual to perform a task that they would otherwise be unable to do, or increase the ease and safety with which a task can be performed. Anything that assists individuals to carry-out daily activities (source:

For the purposes of these articles, we will focus on personal alarm systems available in the home.

Existing Solutions:

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) are the most common personal alarms used to improve individual personal safety and increase the ability to maintain independent living.

Personal alarm equipment monitors the safety of older people in their homes through electronic signals transmitted via a standard telephone line and received at an emergency-monitoring centre, or at a family or friends home. A device, carried or worn, can be activated in an emergency to alert the predetermined call centre or family member that help is needed. All it requires is a push of the button on the medical alarm pendant.

A 2010 study by Johnston, Worley et. al. about use in South Australia found “The benefits of personal alarm use to quality of life and harm minimisation may be substantial in older people at risk of falling who live alone.” (

There are two basic types of alarms:

  • Non-monitored
  • Monitored

Non-monitored personal alarms are automated telephone systems (sometimes called auto or smart diallers) which dial preset numbers, are not connected electronically to a monitoring centre and are pre-programmed to the telephone number of a person willing to help (e.g. family, friends, neighbour, aged care village manager). Automated telephone systems dial preset telephone numbers that are programmed into the system and, depending on the product, will have direct voice communication and/or deliver a pre-recorded message.

These systems rely upon the user having a network of people who they trust, that they can call for assistance. When the first call goes unanswered, the system continues to call the programmed numbers until the call is answered. In most systems, there is a feature called ‘acknowledging’. This requires the individual answering to press a particular button to let the system know that the call has been answered by a person, not an answering machine or voicemail.

Advantages of Non-Monitored Systems:

  • Inexpensive – no ongoing monitoring fees
  • One-off payment – the product is purchased and owned outright
  • Calls go to friends, family and/or neighbours who are often very close by
  • Senior people generally feel more comfortable activating the alarm when they know it will call friends or family. There is often a reluctance when the call will go to 000
  • Flexible – the device can be easily programmed to any phone number e.g. if a family member goes on holiday. It can be switched to monitored service at a later date
  • Simple to use with no installation costs

Disadvantages of Non-Monitored Systems:

  • Reliant on one of the designated numbers answering
  • Adds additional stage to the emergency call process

Monitored alarm systems generally consist of an attachment to a home phone which receives signals from a pendant or other device worn by the user. These signals are received at a monitoring centre and a pre-agreed Call is put into action after calling the client to confirm that the alert has not been accidentally activated.

Centre staff will usually have some medical history of the client and access details if the residence is secured. This information can be passed onto the ambulance staff as required. In addition to the cost of the unit and an installation fee, a monthly monitoring fee is normally charged.

Advantages of Monitored Systems:

  • 24/7 guaranteed Call
  • A solution for those with no friends and family (or not close by)

Disadvantages of Monitored Systems:

  • Very expensive – ongoing monthly subscription fees
  • Ongoing financial commitment – generally a 24 month minimum contract
  • Requires third party installation and installation fee
  • No ownership of product – unit is leased and must be returned when payments cease. Generally no ability to switch to non-monitored at a later stage (e.g. financial circumstances change)
  • Seniors can often be reluctant to activate device when ‘monitored’ for fear of ‘bothering’ people. Less likely when system calls friends/family/neighbours

Other Considerations:

GSM (mobile phone):

A number of new products on the market offer a personal alarm without the need for a telephone line, using GSM or mobile phone technology. Whilst clearly a benefit to those without a phone line, this type of system is reliant on mobile phone signal to be effective. Use may be limited outside of highly populated areas and even in such areas, coverage can be unreliable. As a result, this is not recommended for an emergency call system.

In addition, the long term costs associated with a contract mobile phone SIM plan need to be factored in. ‘Pay As You Go’ SIM’s would not be appropriate as call credit could expire or run out, rendering the system useless in the event of an emergency. Buyers are also warned of the potential for additional mobile plan charges if call/data allowance is exceeded.

Australian Compliance:

Personal Alarms for the elderly are telecommunications products and as such are regulated by the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA). ACMA is the Australian Government regulator for media and telecommunications.

The ACMA has three compliance marks. These marks are:

  1. Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM)
  2. A-Tick
  3. C-Tick

The compliance marks indicate compliance to any ACMA regulatory arrangement for suppliers registered on the national database.

Caution should be taken not to purchase or recommend products that have not been tested for compliance with Australian standards/laws. Poor quality/non-compliant products may not work when required and/or may present an increased risk of bodily injury or property damage e.g. electrical fire.

Ease of use:

A product that is simple to set-up and use is an important consideration, given the target demographics’ level of technical expertise. Many products require multiple wires, routing the phone line through a base station which alters the normal telephone function and has complex programming. This can be minimised by choosing a user friendly product.

Calling 000?

Programming 000 as one of the numbers to be dialled is NOT recommended (Seniors Information Service Auto diallers generally have a pre-recorded automatic message.  Staff on the ‘000’ service need to be able to speak to an individual to know where to send help and understand the nature of emergency. Beware of products that are programmed to only dial ‘000’.

Factors to Consider when Purchasing a Personal Alarm:

  • initial cost
  • ongoing costs
  • the type of unit and its reliability
  • compliance with Australian standards and law
  • not being reliant on 000 as a first responder

In addition to initial cost, it is important to consider the long term expense of the various options. A 10 year view should be calculated to understand the lifetime investment of use of an alarm system (based on a 75 year old purchaser with a 10 year life expectancy). The lifetime investment includes unit cost, installation/set-up fee and monthly management/subscription fees (including plan costs for GSM units).

Based on market research, there is very limited availability of products satisfying all of the above factors:

–         the lifetime cost for monitored options is between $3,178 and $5,750

–         GSM products start at $1,199 over the 10 year lifetime, including the cost of the mobile plan. Further, they are potentially unreliable as dependent on network coverage

–         non-monitored options have also been reviewed. The cheapest alternative product ($325) is not identified as Australian compliant and, as such, may present safety issues. One product is only programmed to dial 000  and the third, although satisfying the criteria, is relatively expensive at $495

Part 4 Spoiler Alert!

You can get the SureSafe Personal Emergency Call System for only $229 inc GST & postage by clicking here. Learn more about how the alarm works here and look out for a detailed analysis of why you should only choose the SureSafe alarm for you or your loved ones next week.

Who is Bora Health?

Bora Health is a community interest company committed to the belief that the ability to continue to live independently and age with dignity should be the right of everyone, not only for those that can afford it. Using that guiding principle, the business was built with the goal of providing a high quality product and service at a price that is affordable to all. 

Bora Health is an Australian, United Kingdom and United States owned and operated personal alarm company committed to providing elderly care services to an ageing world. Using technology and innovation, Bora Health aims to enhance the feeling of being safe and secure in your own home.

Look out for part 4 next week, where Bora Health provides you the solution to support independent living both now and in the future – The SureSafe Personal Emergency Call System.

Can’t wait until next week? Need a solution to support independent living now? Click here to see how the SureSafe Personal Emergency Call System could help you or a loved one right now. Peace of mind at the push of a button.