Over the three years of our Caregiver Smile Summit, we have had leading experts speak about how technology can assist aging in place. In this article, we look at what they are seeing and what you should be incorporating if you want to age in place safely.
Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch, said it best that, with few exceptions, every five years technology changes.
It is important to be able to safely stay in your home and also avoid social isolation. We have written previously about aging in place specialists who can come into the home, even virtually, and go room to room and tell you what needs to be changed or modified. Conversely there is often a technology solution that helps.
According to Orlov, personal emergency response pendants have withstood the test of time and have also grown to be able to detect falls, detect your voice, and more.
Wearables, think Apple Watch and Fitbit, are becoming ‘smarter’ and also essential. There are so many smart devices that can help monitor your health that it would take a book to document!
Lisa Cini, Founder, President, and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio, has an amazing website – Best Living Tech – that showcases technology in these categories: home, health, memory, companion, fitness and vision/hearing. She had a great analogy.
Smart technology is like Alfred the Butler in Batman. Always in the background. Never obtrusive. There when you need him!
One of the trends she sees is smart lighting, which allows you to program the lights in your house to come on based on sensing. And you do it from an app. Think of what a great help that would be for older people who get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom!
There is also Circadian Smart Lighting where the temperature of the lights adjusts naturally to keep your body in its natural rhythm.
For your bathroom you can buy bidet toilet seats to assist with hygiene. Bidets, popular in Europe, may yet be in fashion! They may not be what you think of as tech but the fact that they can be installed on an existing toilet is pretty savvy!
Induction looping is another trend Cini has spotted. A hearing loop is a special type of sound system for use by people with hearing aids.
The hearing loop provides a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by the hearing aid. It cuts out unwanted background noise though you need to use a receiver/headset. Better hearing leads to better health.
Of course, induction cooking (cooking without fear) allows the unit to detect whether cookware is placed on it and shuts down the element if a pot is not there or not large enough. The stovetop stays cool: no burned fingers or hands. And no house fires leaving burners on.
When you need to go somewhere, we know it’s getting easy. Not self-driving-cars easy but cars driven by someone else, certainly. Uber and Lyft are developing specialized senior services.
Niche companies like SilverRide provide an assisted ride service that picks you up from any location and transports you safely and securely all the way to your final destination. Food delivery to the home is becoming very popular.
Relieving Social Isolation
To me, one of the advantages of senior living facilities is the ability to socialize. Senior isolation is pervasive. Still, even the home-bound can prevent isolation. Certainly, social media has helped engage people via video chats on a number of platforms.
Virtual reality devices like Oculus can put you in the middle of a new experience without leaving home. Hasbro’s Joy for All Companion Pets gives you all of the benefits of having a pet without the burdens. I stream live concerts to people in their homes. You get the idea.
AI Voice Activated
Probably the biggest tech development is voice activated technology like Alexa and Google Home. I am working with a company called Brio that has an app specifically designed to help caregivers, engage the end user, and help prevent social isolation.
Listen to music, receive reminders, listen to a book… the skills developed and being developed are sometimes bigger than our imagination. My fitness tracker is connected directly to Alexa. Go figure. I can provide input to it and also review my progress from it.
So, if you are apprehensive about aging in place, at least know that one part of the equation, technology, is developing rapidly. It can keep you safe at home, help engage your mind, relieve isolation, and increase your happiness.
How are you leveraging technology to stay in your home for years to come? Which apps or devices do you currently own and how do you engage with them on a daily basis? How is your live made different because of them? Please share in the comments below.