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Technology Trends: High-Tech For Seniors - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: High-Tech For Seniors

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: High-Tech For Seniors

We joke all the time about our less technologically savvy friends being “grandmas” or “grandpas,” but while it’s true that our elderly friends and relatives may be less inclined to embrace the newest gadgets, new devices and services continue to emerge strictly for the purpose of improving their quality of living. As populations in countries such as the United States get older, the demand for better technology serving the aging population’s interests will continue to grow. If it keeps our loved ones healthy and happy, it’s definitely worth exploring in these early stages of the new technology.

Elderly people fall down. It’s an unpleasant fact of life that needs to be considered and planned for. Among the interesting developments in the I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up category of elderly tools, fall detectors are getting a lot of attention. You’ll remember that the original device was worn around the neck, and if the wearer fell, he or she could push a button opening a connection to an emergency operator, who could call 911 on the person’s behalf. Of course, if a person fell and was unconscious, he or she would be unable to initiate the call, making the device useless.

The new devices detect sudden changes in distance from the ground, as with a drop or fall, similar to the drop detection built into most cell phones now. With the improved technology, when the device detects a fall, emergency operators initiate a call and ask, “_______, are you all right?” If the person doesn’t respond in thirty seconds, the operator calls 911. If the person does respond, the operator can ask questions to determine whether or not help is needed.

For other kinds of detection, such as general inactivity, erratic behavior, or wandering, sensors can now be placed around the house, not to keep tabs on what a senior is doing specifically, but to get a sense of a person’s movement. The technology “learns” a person’s general patterns of movement throughout the day, so that unusual changes can alert a caregiver, prompting a phone call or visit. Of course, this system involves a level of invasiveness that should probably be discussed, but for the peace of mind it can give a caregiver and the general sense of being cared for it can give the elderly, most will probably consider the trade-off favorably.

We covered medicine trackers in a recent mobile apps review, but in the absence of a smartphone, standalone devices will do similar duty. The monitors remind seniors (and optionally their caregivers) when they’re scheduled to take their meds, or alert them when they’ve missed a dosage. Some devices will dispense the appropriate meds in the correct dosages, and can dispense multiple doses per day according to how they’re programmed.

One service provider has wedded all three of these technologies—medicine tracking, fall detection, and motion sensing—in one system, a kind of caregiver control center that allows something closer to a comprehensive peace of mind. As smart home technologies continue to develop, we can almost surely expect increased integration with other services, with or without mobile apps.

Other areas in senior living receive attention in developing new technologies: what can new devices do for driving, walking, or exercise? Can new devices help with such things as mood, anxiety, or loneliness? How can new technology be built into communities, in order to make entire neighborhoods seniors-friendly? Let’s hurry up and find out, for our sake and for our loved ones’ sakes.

 

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