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Your right to peace of mind vs your parent’s right to independence


The challenge of caring for other people isn’t a new one. Looking after Mum and Dad as they become increasingly frail whilst juggling the demands of a growing family and work is a problem that has been with us for decades. However, with the total population of people aged 65 or over increasing from 4.5M in 1951 to 8.7M in 2011 and forecast to increase to 16.6M in 20511, looking after older people is an issue that needs to be addressed. People are living longer and, with pressures on the NHS and the Care System, something needs to change.

One of the dilemma’s that we face with ageing parents is balancing the need for them to be safe against their desire to be in their own home. Living in your own home isn’t just about wanting to stay put and refusing to accept change, it’s about hanging on to that all important independence.

Jo Ann Simons2, an advisor to the Ruderman Family Foundation, says in her blog**, “Let’s not lose sight of the very important rights to independence: The right to choose your friends. The right to eat when you want.
 The right to skip your chores for another day. The right to take risks… a professional, I have seen the loss of dignity that comes when others make the decisions about when a person gets up, showers, exercises, eats and controls their access to friends and even family.”

Pippa Kelly3 in her blog post titled Risk vs Silent Harms explores the pursuit of adventure in people living with dementia to get away from “a downward spiral of low energy, low self-esteem and loneliness. One person’s idea of unacceptable risk is another’s raison d’etre – take away the element of risk in someone’s life and you take away part of his or her self.”

These thefts of identity are what Professor Charlotte Clarke4 of Edinburgh University calls “silent harms” – when efforts to safeguard people with dementia compromise other aspects of their wellbeing.

Launch of Canary Care

So, how do we get the balance right between giving our parents the
dignity and independence they deserve and thrive on, without driving ourselves to distraction through worry?

New technology has the potential to provide this much wanted peace of mind whilst allowing our parent to continue to live in their own home.

For those that find themselves worrying “I hope Mum is ok” (or Dad or aunt or neighbour), Canary is a new home monitoring system that gives them the reassurance that their relative or friend is safe and well.  Most importantly, it gives that individual the freedom and support to stay living in their own home for longer.

Canary allows families to see at a glance, on a webpage via a mobile, tablet or laptop, if everything is as it should be. For example, it can tell you if your relative has visited the kitchen, if their house is warm enough (but not too warm) or whether they have gone to bed as usual.  It can also tell if a visitor (domestic, personal care or meal delivery) has called at the expected time.  If anything out of the ordinary does occur, Canary will send a text or email to a member of the family or a friend so that they can check that everything is ok.  Families and designated friends can also have access to the webpage so they can be reassured that everything is as it should be.

Canary is simple to set up and easy to use.  It uses discreet sensors that are placed around the home to monitor movement, temperature and visitors to check that everything is as it should be.   Canary uses wireless and mobile technology, removing the need for a phone line or internet connection.  Canary doesn’t use cameras or microphones so nobody can be seen or heard.

Canary, that can be purchased for £270 with a monthly rental of £15 or rented for £36 a month with a refundable deposit of £100 (all prices include VAT), offers excellent value for money for those who pay for their own care and is on sale via

Canary was given the award for best Start Up at the September 2014 Conservative Conference

What people say about Canary

The following are quotes from people who have used Canary:

“Mum is happy to have Canary as she knows it’s not intrusive but I can keep an eye on her and know that all is well. It’s given me plus mum a sense of security, she knows should she have a fall I would notice as I’m checking in 2-3 times per day. It’s great that other members of the family can check on the computer to see to check that all’s well.”

“We have benefited greatly from using Canary with my grandfather. It is a quick and easy way of finding out that he is ok and up in the morning. It has given us insight into what his regular patterns and routines are and if we notice something is out of the ordinary with his routine, it is usually because something is wrong.
We as a family live between 45 minute and 6 hour drive away so this gives us peace of mind that he is ok from a distance particularly if we can’t reach him by phone. It has prevented unnecessary worrying and car journeys as before this is what we would have to do if he did not answer his phone to ensure he was ok, as there was no other way to check. The temperature function is also really helpful as it alerted us that his heating was broken – otherwise we would not have known without visiting.
I could not recommend this product more highly. It is such a helpful system for all the family and helps reassure us on a daily basis. Phone calls are now more about a nice conversation and catch up rather than checking in to see if he is ok and I don’t worry if he doesn’t answer the phone.”

“It has provided real reassurance for me in keeping an eye on my mother. It is not intrusive and does not have cameras…I really like that and so does Mum.
With Mum’s condition (dementia), it is difficult to specify where she will be at any one time…but I have been able to see a pattern when looking at the Canary movement charts- that has been really reassuring. It’s enabled me to see that she now needs more support and so have arranged for carers to go in daily.”

Canary Background Information:

Canary is a British start-up from development to manufacture.  The directors have impressive credentials in both technology start-ups and healthcare.  They are William Cotton (formerly MD at Crookes Healthcare and Boots International), Stuart Sheehy (formerly Bupa Home Healthcare), Stuart Butterfield (formerly Philips), Claire Vincent (formerly Boots) and Christopher Curry (Acorn computers, GIS and Redwood Publishing)

The founder team of this all British start-up has extensive experience in technology innovation and the provision of healthcare products and services coupled with personal experience of caring for elderly relatives.   They share a vision to effectively deploy technology to allow people to continue to lead independent and fulfilled lives.

Christopher Curry, co-founder of Acorn computers, was the original catalyst behind the concept and the idea was further developed when he teamed up with William Cotton (previously Managing Director for Boots International) and Stuart Sheehy (previously at BUPA). Other key team members include Technical Director Stuart Butterfield, (previously at Philips), marketing experts Claire Vincent and Victoria Buckingham (both previously at Boots) and Head of Business Development Jamie Paton.

Being a start-up company during the deepest and longest recession since the Second World War has had its challenges!  However, when Christopher Curry explained his vision to William Cotton in 2011, William instinctively knew that it offered a unique and practical solution for all of us who want to stay in our own homes, even in old age.

Christopher Curry has been inventing for over 50 years.   In the 60s, it was calculators and computers with Clive Sinclair, in the 70s it was the first home computer, Acorn Computers, and more recently he has been at the forefront of developing smart cards, not just for cashless transaction but also to help to give older people their independence.  In the early days of the development of the Canary system he was helped by support from the Technology Strategy Board and the Department of Gerontology at the University of Newcastle.

William and his colleagues have now built a team with the right expertise in healthcare, technology and start-ups to make the Canary vision a reality.  The business is based in Culham, Oxfordshire.

Contact information:

Ruth Alecock
Mob: 07970 149466

Claire Vincent, Marketing
Mob: 07715 698999

William Cotton, Chairman
Mob: 07711 420153

Stuart Sheehy
Mobile: 07768 747274


1 HSCIC is the national provider of information, data and IT systems for health and social care





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