Technologies for aging in place are rapidly expanding.
Life in the third millennium offers an abundance of technological support to make aging in place more pleasant for seniors, as well as easier on family members and caregivers. Best of all, the most interesting, cutting edge senior tech offers health care breakthroughs that seniors of previous generations couldn’t even imagine.
1. In A Different Voice
Voice-powered technologies aren’t just altering the way we shop, drive and search. They’re also becoming a powerful health care tool.
“Smart speakers,” which might once have referred to seasoned presenters on the lecture circuit, now describe healthcare IT voices. These digital assistants can access actionable information from medical records for clinical teams in real time, discover whether a bed is available in the ICU — and even help streamline organ transplant procedures, saving critical minutes in environments where seconds can have a dramatic impact on outcomes.
All of which is fantastic in a medical setting. But will seniors embrace voice technology on a personal level?
The answer is a resounding “yes”.
AgeLab refutes a number of stereotypical beliefs about seniors, such as, “We don’t like technology,” and “We’re brand-loyal for life.” Along with retirement, aging in place is undergoing a significant reinvention. AgeLab Director Joseph Coughlin says, “Businesses must reset their expectations of the older market, or miss a multi-trillion dollar opportunity.”
He’s on point. AgeInPlaceTech.com reports that estimated growth in smart speakers was up 93% in 2018 from 2017, and seniors love it. They use digital assistants because:
- They want to be hands-free (55%)
- It’s fun! (23%)
- The spoken language feels more natural than typing (22%)
“Voice technology is intuitive for people of all ages,” says Sami Hassanyeh, Chief Digital Officer for AARP.
2. Have You Met My Friend Alexa?
Voice technology also serves a valuable role in mitigating social isolation and loneliness for many older adults. Social isolation has been linked to poorer health outcomes, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Voice technology allows a form of “call and response.” AARP Foundation is currently conducting a pilot study to determine its use in reducing isolation and improving health outcomes: “People feel less lonely talking to Alexa.”
Seniors are also likely to love the latest PERS (Personal Emergency Response System) from MobileHelp and Lifepod, which weds PERS, healthcare solutions, voice activation, and smart home speakers to act as a virtual caregiver, enabling a senior to call for assistance and immediately be connected with an emergency response center. In the event the senior is unable to respond when asked if they need help, help will already be on the way.
What’s more, Lifepod functions like an Alexa or Echo for senior health: at preprogrammed intervals, the device will proactively check in with your loved one — independent of a wake word or other prompt — with a friendly greeting and inquiry, such as, “Good morning, Bill! Did you take your medication today?”
3. Don’t Fall for That
If a senior who is aging in place falls at home and no one is around, will help get there in time? If the elder is wearing smart shoes, the answer is likely to be “absolutely”.
French startup E-Vone designed senior-safe, sensor-padded footwear that will notify the designated contact person (medical professional, family member, caregiver, etc.) in the event the wearer falls. They not only help protect elders; these shoes can benefit hikers (especially someone hiking alone, whose distress could cost them their life), construction workers, and others who may fall while alone, and need immediate assistance.
Falls are an inevitable aspect of growing older: more than half of those 80 and older fall every year. Despite taking steps to maintain good balance as we age, falls still happen, usually when we least expect them. With sensor-implanted shoes, help is already on the way.
4. Is Your Mom Hip?
One company is hip to health tech, literally. Like E-Vone, Active Protective wants to prevent seniors who fall from injuring themselves. So they’ve developed a hip airbag contained in a belt that deploys instantly when a senior falls, surrounding and protecting older hips from the dreaded hip fracture so prevalent in our 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond.
These wearable airbags are currently being tested in the U.S. at a California senior living community. It seems to be only a matter of time until, when an elder falls and the hip airbag deploys, the senior’s voice tech companion inquires, “Are you OK? Would you like me to contact the doctor?”
5. 3D Printing: Try This At Home
If a senior is having trouble swallowing solid foods, dinner may need to be pureed to a soup-like consistency in order to avoid a choking hazard. While The Kensington Sierra Madre is happy to accommodate any dietary needs, we know it isn’t much fun to drink every meal like a milkshake.
However, 3D printing may soon make it possible to print out meatloaf and mashed potatoes with a texture that makes the phrase “melt in one’s mouth” a reality. Star Trek’s replicator, which could produce any food or beverage on command, is becoming a reality.
Or perhaps your loved one needs new hearing aids. You won’t have to make an appointment with the audiologist and pay for another exam and fitting, then wait for the new devices to arrive: 3D printing can customize and replace them immediately.
The same goes for universal design improvements: architects can simulate various types of door handles, for example, then select the model that best conforms to an elder’s hand and grip strength. The possibilities are limitless…
6. Blood Flow: Staying in Circulation
Seniors might associate the word “circulation” with the print distribution of their daily newspaper. It’s also the key term for what keeps our bodies humming.
When the physical circulation of blood is impeded, a senior can experience a huge range of health problems, from high blood pressure to varicose veins to unexplained headaches, memory loss to weakening eyesight to fatigue. Doctors typically advise patients to quit smoking, exercise, eat a healthy diet, and reduce stress. All good counsel. But it may not alleviate the problem.
Enter electroceuticals. An FDA-approved, NASA-endorsed medical device known as BEMER uses a patented signal to unblock the body’s own blood circulation pathways. Since humans are electromagnetic beings, constantly being bombarded by electrical frequencies (e.g., WiFi, cell phone towers, smart meters…), electroceuticals can help restore health.
7. When the Memories Fade
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5.7 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2019 — and this number could more than triple by 2050. With someone in the U.S. developing dementia every 66 seconds, how do you know if, or when, an older loved one is becoming cognitively impaired? That’s where MyndYou comes in.
MyndYou is a mobile platform that monitors cognitive, physiological and behavioral parameters to provide data-driven dementia care insights. Its unique algorithm leverages data from sensors to detect changes, and conveys their implications, together with recommended actions and therapies, to family members and designated medical professionals.
Because MyndYou allows families to make decisions based on objective information, it can improve quality of life for all involved — and give everyone a better sense of when it’s appropriate for a senior to move to an assisted living residence or a memory care community.
8. It Goggles the Mind
Though they’re not particularly fashion-forward, NuEyes may be the ultimate wearable for the visually impaired: voice-activated smart glasses that help people see again. Created by two veterans using technologies originally designed for military use, NuEyes works with a senior’s existing prescription eyeglasses and functions similar to a tablet or smartphone, streaming images via a built-in digital camera.
A pair of NuEyes weighs less than an iPhone and is easier to use than TV. They look somewhat like VR goggles — and to a senior with low vision, may feel that way when they first put them on and experience the joy of seeing again.
The futuristic features included in the “Pro” version again call Star Trek to mind: they offer the ability to browse the web, check email, and even stream movies directly to the glasses.
It’s important to be aware of the need for prudence, though: these incredible wearables are not waterproof, and you can’t drive with them on.
Partnering for Premier Aging In Place
Here at The Kensington Sierra Madre, we’re proud to offer interesting technologies for aging in place, such as our HealthPRO Heritage Rehabilitation programs, which work in partnership with the Kensington’s own fitness, wellness, and rehab programs to provide comprehensive, state of the art wellness and health education for our residents.
Ask us how we can support your senior loved one’s healthy living goals.