An adult child’s concern for an aging parent is nothing new, but as the baby boomer generation heads for retirement the Department of Health and Human Services says nearly 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older by 2030.
The concern about aging loved ones living alone at home is about to reach an all-time high and while the state of assisted living facilities continues to improve, many seniors prefer to keep their independence as long as possible. This begs the question: How can we keep our loved ones safe, afford it and have peace of mind?
While there has been an explosion of wearable technology — devices that monitor an individuals’ health and fitness levels including sleep patterns and water intake to name a few — products designed for seniors have been lacking. The good news is that is starting to change.
Here is a list of seven apps and gadgets that help families, patients, and health care givers keep our seniors safe at home.
Small sensors are placed on objects within the home — such as to prescription pill bottles or the refrigerator — to detect when the resident is taking medications, getting food, or leaving the home. Activity signals are sent from the sensors to Lively’s website (no internet WiFi connection required), where the data is held for family members and caregivers to monitor. Data is also shared with all connected via smartphone and email with notifications on any irregular activity. A printed LivelyGram mailer with photos and messages from family members and friends given access is automatically created twice a month for the adult in the home.
As we age, risk of falling is one of the costliest and the most difficult to manage. Recovering from a fall at an old age is extremely difficult. It actually results in lack of mobility, further resulting in depression and many other serious conditions, and putting the patient in a downward spiral. WalkJoy is a company that has set out to solve this problem. It’s a non-invasive technology that aids in the restoration of gait and balance for people with peripheral neuropathy. Devices are attached to the knees that re-establish signal to the brain through healthy nerves around the knees, telling the brain that the heel just struck the ground. The brain’s central nervous system incorporates the new signal from the device, and the motor system responds as if there is no loss of sensation in the foot – therefore returning the person to a normal pattern of gait. The company also offers a second device, WalkingHealth, that serves as a walking diagnostics tool for the elderly suffering from mobility challenges to help reduce falls.
Physical fitness and healthy daily movement is critical to healthy aging. However, most times it’s not easy to figure out how much physical activity or exercise is necessary because many factors drive this decision. It depends upon a person’s physical abilities, their conditions and their medications, just to name a few. Respondesign is a company that uses the Kinect sensor that aids in understanding a person's physical limitation and connects them with a therapist who can then create an individualized physical fitness plan for the patient. The plan is then plugged into Respondesign, where an avatar helps the patient follow along and determines progress, which is again sent back to the designated therapist so he/she can monitor progress and make changes to the plan accordingly.
A meticulously designed interface known as “Angela” is Independa’s HAL-like personality built in to LG TV’s, ready to use with larger screen fonts and higher contrast for the elderly. When activated for use, the viewer can browse the web, video chat with friends and family, access simple email, play games, see family photos, follow a daily schedule, get medication reminders and more. Angela can even be programmed to call your loved one to remind them to take medications. These services are available through TV and laptops, in private homes, senior living and skilled nursing facilities.
These discreet devices allow families to have peace of mind while their loved ones remain mobile with a GPS locator to help stay connected. These GPS locators provide real time location information, activity that can be viewed through a Web-based portal or smartphone. There’s also a PocketFinder Vehicle device that mounts directly on to a vehicle and is powered by the car’s battery.
Guardian offers the Virtually There Care camera monitoring system, which allows family members to check in on their loved ones living independently via remove camera viewing and audible communications. This decreases the need for paid caregivers and daily check-ins, lowers home care costs in assisted living or nursing placement and extends independence.
Although not quite to market yet (3-5 years), the BioStamp puts medical diagnostics on a whole new playing field for all ages. Applied like a band-aid or temporary tattoo, the bio stamp measures everything: hydration levels (critical with senior citizens), body temperature, heart rate, brain activity, and even exposure to UV radiation. This is a wireless technology where the data can be uploaded to a nearby smartphone for analysis (i.e. grandma’s doctor can check in without her having to visit).