How Smart Technology Can Help You “Age in Place”

There are many products and services that can make staying in your own home easier, even when you start to require help with daily living activities.

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by NEA Member Benefits

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Given a choice between living in some type of institutional care facility and living at home, most seniors prefer staying home. According to a report by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Conference of State Legislatures, nearly 90% of people over 65 want to live in their own home as long as possible. An amazing 80% think they will remain in their home until they die. Now that’s a passionate desire for the comforts of home sweet home.

More seniors means a growing smart tech market

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living projects that by 2040 there will be over 100 million people age 60 and older, representing about one quarter of the country’s population. Most will want to age at home and will need some kind of help with various aspects of home life. With that kind of burgeoning market, it’s no wonder the tech industry is scrambling to provide new waves of gadgets to help people stay active and independent for as long as possible.

Here are a few of the smart tech products available for seniors with varying levels of assistance needs and tech savvy.

Simple smartphones

Mobile devices, including smartphone and tablets, continue on a path to overtake desktop PCs as the primary way people access the Internet. This mobile adoption is true among seniors as well, as they understand the value of devices that can deliver email, news, weather, as well as offer apps that track blood pressure, deliver medication reminders and provide GPS location services. An overview of senior-focused smartphones can be found here.

Wearables

You probably remember the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials from a few years back. That was the nascent era of Personal Emergency Response (PERS) products. Unfortunately, many seniors refused to wear these pendants, which were not waterproof and designed strictly for a house-centric lifestyle. Newer mobile PERS (mPERS) technology is improving on the old model and includes a variety of wearable products.

Watches/wristbands. There are several stylish watches that offer health and emergency features, such as fall detection, medication reminders and fitness trackers. The Kanega [link to: http://www.unaliwear.com/] watch is fully voice activated and self contained—meaning it’s not dependent on a connection to a home-based system or smartphone. You just speak to the device and it talks back to you. It can even provide simple directions on how to get back home. CarePredict® TempoTM is a wristband that monitors and records your daily patterns over time. If these patterns begin to change in ways that could indicate a health issue may be developing, an alert is sent to a family member.

The BodyGuardian Sensor is a peel-and-stick wireless monitor that performs cardiac ECG and rhythm monitoring. Data is delivered to the Preventice Care Platform and to physicians.

GPS trackers. GPS technology can pinpoint a person’s location with great accuracy. GPS SmartSole is an insole that can keep you connected to a family member with signs of dementia so they can be found if they wander off. Similar technology exists in watches, but people with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia often are resistant to wearing new devices they don’t understand.

Personal airbags—The idea of wearing an airbag might strike some as humorous, but if you’re prone to falls or have already fractured a hip, it’s no laughing matter. Active Protective  is a smart belt that uses fall-in-progress technology to automatically deploy an airbag around the hips to cushion impacts.

Medication monitors

Medication errors are the No. 1 cause of hospitalizations in people over 75 according to Andrew Carle, founding director of the Program in Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University. Medication alert systems tell you when to take medication and can contact a caregiver if too much time passes between scheduled dosages. A list of the top ten medical alert systems according to consumersadvocate.com can be found here.

Home automation products

Smart home technology—programmable lighting, motion detectors and video surveillance—has been around for a few decades. But the rise of wireless capabilities and a focus on renewable energy and green living has brought these technologies into the mainstream. Some home automation products are particularly suited for seniors:

  • Keypad door locks and deadbolts eliminate the need to fumble with keys or turn deadbolt levers.
  • Big button phone and TV remotes help those will failing eyesight.
  • Voice activated thermostats let you change the temperature in the room with voice commands.
  • Appliance monitoring can provide reminders to turn off a coffee pot or oven and automatically lock doors.
  • Video monitoring inside and outside a home can keep loved ones connected to what’s happening so they can spot issues before they become problems.
  • Motion sensors can detect unusual movements, such as falls. Göz consists of a motion-detecting LED bulb, a motion-detecting bathtub drain and a companion phone app. If a person falls while in the bathtub, the system immediately empties the tub and calls for help.