It’s easier than ever before for seniors to live independently at home with the assistance of family, friends, and/or professional caregivers. This phenomenon, “aging in place,” has gotten quite a boost from an ever-evolving array of high-tech devices
Senior living communities also need to keep up with top technology trends, especially if they want to draw seniors away from their homes, and to their facilities. This might become more difficult as senior living technology grows more sophisticated.
So, you must be wondering, what are these innovative products for elderly people that have been so transformative?
Top Technology Trends
There is quite a wide range of these, so we’ll group them into categories, some of which overlap.
These are conveniences any of us might benefit from, but are especially helpful to seniors.
There is a service called GoGoGrandparent, that arranges rides for seniors via an 800-number. And, of course, seniors can also call Uber or Lyft for rides if they no longer drive.
Other technology-enhanced everyday conveniences that seniors surely appreciate include:
- Home grocery delivery that can be ordered online
- Apps like Takl and Thumbtack that point users to possible contractors for jobs, small to large
- Online businesses, such as Rover or Care.com, that identify available pet-sitters or, in the case of Care.com, house cleaning and various other services, as well
For younger generations, services such as these are second nature, but many older people are now discovering them for the first time.
Nextavenue is a great source of information on the latest technologies impacting seniors. One such technology, “Deva World, helps people with Alzheimer’s or dementia by allowing them to navigate a virtual world.
Deve World users interact with everyday people, and practice routine tasks and interactions. Rendever is a similar program that targets seniors and their specific needs–especially memory concerns.
Another common type of therapy for seniors is psychotherapy. Seniors with depression or other mental health issues can reach out to an array of online practitioners, who can be located through a simple search.
This is one of the more cutting-edge categories of innovation in senior living trends. Safewise lists its Top 5 Wearable Devices for seniors, as follows:
- Apple Watch 4 should serve seniors well following an upcoming software that will allow this device to take an ECG reading, detect falls, and speak 50% louder than earlier models. In an emergency, it also will double as a phone.
- Lively Mobile is a pendant or clip-on that detects falls, asks whether the wearer is OK or needs help, and has GPS.
- Airbag Smart Belt is literally a belt, that can detect falls and deploy airbags at waist and hips to help prevent serious injury.
- GPS Smartsole is an actual insole that sends signals to a smartphone app every 5-10 minutes. You or a loved one can see your location on a map.
- Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor is inexpensive, fits directly on your wrist, and gives a reading in less than a minute.
Digital technologies have dramatically increased the array and sophistication of wearable devices to monitor vital signs, chronic conditions, accidents, and other concerns.
At-Home Monitoring Systems
There are also comprehensive monitoring systems to cover entire homes, not just isolated needs:
- LifePod is a device that helps caregivers manage seniors’ day-to-day schedules, medications, appointments, activities, and entertainment.
- Evermind helps the quality of life for those living independently or managing chronic diseases, and those caring for them, by remotely monitoring appliances and home medical equipment.
- Aeyesafe is a sound and thermal monitoring system that provides current and historical data. It does not need human intervention for monitoring, thereby encouraging independence.
- Alarm.com is a partner to the Wellness home security system. These systems work together to provide comprehensive insight into the behavior and safety of seniors living on their own.
- Lively Mobile works to connect caregivers and seniors through an emergency response button that will send alerts of any issues. The sensor also has fall detection, is waterproof, and is easy for seniors to wear.
- Best Company’s Medical Alert Reviews lists dozens of other sensors or medical alert systems.
These devices have differing components, as well as different tag lines. Nonetheless, they often are used in combinations to keep tabs on elderly loved ones.
But do seniors feel overwhelmed by this sense of being watched all the time?
NextAvenue quotes Majd Alwan, who studies aging, as saying, “It‘s the way we package the devices and the way we introduce technology.” He had a temporary but debilitating injury himself that needed monitoring.
He feels it is better to introduce monitoring technologies directly, so as not to imply frailty and put users on the defensive. Older adults are already sensitive about their diminishing capacities.
Telemedicine has changed the practice of medicine in some dramatic ways, especially for seniors. eVisit says that “with the wide variety of mobile health apps and new mobile medical devices that are consumer-friendly, patients are starting to use technology to monitor and track their health.”
This is good news! It should be better for their health and longevity if seniors don’t need to leave home for specialized medical care.
Compared with other senior tech discussed here, medication reminders are fairly low-tech. Here are some of the more popular ones:
- The top choice of seniorsafety.com is the high-functioning MediSafe app, which happens to cost nothing. Plus, it reminds seniors when to take their medications, and provides information about them. It also helps seniors with alternative ways to pay, if needed.
- MedMinder Jon is an automated pill box that is monitored remotely by a call center. The center will contact a client who has forgotten to take a pill.
- Blister packs, like Dispill, that divide out groups of pills taken at particular times of day have been around for quite some time. You can ask a pharmacy to use them when dispensing pills.
- The Hero app is another way to monitor someone’s medication use from a mobile phone. The accompanying dispenser is a countertop device the size of a small kitchen appliance.
- Pill Drill is a rather elaborate collection of gadgets meant to gather data. It tracks when and if the pills are actually taken, and even has a “mood cube” device for users to record their moods at the time of taking the medication.
It should be noted that the old-fashioned seven-day plastic pill-minder boxes continue to hold their own these days!
Assistive and Adaptive Equipment
This even more low-tech category involves durable equipment (often special furniture or hardware). These are products of sophisticated engineering and design.
In its list of “5 Assistive Devices to Keep Seniors On Their Feet,” homecarepulse.com lists mostly ones, such as walking canes and stairlifts, that have been in use for decades.
Other durable equipment in widespread use includes:
- Reaching devices for wiping after using the toilet
- Shower chairs
- Bathroom grab bars
- Weighted dining utensils
- Electric lifting seats
- Hook dressing aids (for buttons and other fasteners).
A somewhat more sophisticated device is Reminder Rosie, described by makeuseof.com, who say it allows caregivers to “record up to 25 different messages and set them to be broadcast at various times of the day. Think of it as gentle reminders rather than 24/7 surveillance.”
Another item listed by makeuseof.com is Bed and Chair Fallguard: “As soon as a senior with mobility concerns leaves their bed or chair, their immediate caregiver gets an alert.”
Living in the 21st Century: Integrating Innovative Products for the Elderly
Internet-Connected Devices (the “Internet of Things”)
More of a phenomenon than a form of technology in and of itself, the Internet of things is a unifier of various technologies, some formerly unrelated. Jacob Morgan of Forbes defines this as “basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).”
This includes cellphones, coffee makers, blenders, washing machines, televisions, lamps, wearable devices and “almost anything else you can think of.” Morgan notes as well that it can apply to components of machines such as an airplane’s jet or the drill for an oil rig.
One Internet-connected device we ran across when looking for senior living trends is Amazon’s popular Alexa/Echo combination, a manifestation of the Internet of things if there ever was one!
Universal Design (UD) “is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” It arose out of multiple factors, especially new laws regarding disability accommodations.
Architects now design buildings with UD in mind. And educators strive to think of ways to teach that potentially include any students. Video captioning, for example, helps the hearing-impaired as well as those who might want to improve listening skills
Senior living communities are ideal locations to apply the principles of UD. It puts residents on a more level playing field with one another, as well as visitors and staff. It also can ease the tasks of those without known disabilities, but who may just need some help. A good example is doors that upon automatically.
Retirement communities today are quite costly. This is due to the many services and amenities they offer, as well as their mission to care for residents at any stage of aging or health care needs. Many compete for a limited number of seniors especially ones nearby) who can afford the high fees.
Retirement communities will likely be both eager and compelled to be early adopters of new and innovative products for the elderly as future technology trends find their way into our everyday lives.
Advice to these businesses: keep your eyes on the baby boomers for upcoming senior living trends! This generation is currently divided between younger retirees and those still working. These people did not grow up with digital technologies themselves, but most did become familiar with them as part of their working lives. Contact us for more info.