Elderly 'should be tagged'

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Elderly people could be electronically tagged to allow worried families to keep track of frail relatives, a government minister has proposed.

Science minister Malcolm Wicks said that satellite technology, such as that used for car navigation systems, could be used to help monitor the movements of dementia sufferers, according to several reports.

Mr Wicks' comments came after he told parliament's science and technology committee yesterday that many families were concerned about "what's happening" to their elderly relatives who might be suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The minister told the Daily Telegraph that "satnav" technology could also be used to help monitor Britain's ageing population so that their families could be reassured that they were "safe and secure".

But he acknowledged that a balance would have to be achieved so that those who wore such a tagging device would "have the freedom to live their lives".

Mr Wicks also told the BBC that permission would also need to be sought from the elderly user.

"By knowing where they are they could have the safety and security that they would wish for themselves and certainly their families would feel more reassured," he said, arguing the benefits of such a system.

Help The Aged said that while Mr Wicks' proposals might attract criticism, the potential of new technologies to help the elderly should not be immediately dismissed.

"Clearly at first glance these proposals may smack of the Big Brother state, but we shouldn't dismiss the potential of new technologies to afford dignity and opportunity to vulnerable older people," said the charity's senior policy manager Kate Jopling.

She added that such technology could help greater numbers of elderly people with dementia to live more independently within their local community, while "minimising" some of the associated risks to them.

Around 700,000 people in the UK have dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society.

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