New Technologies Help Seniors Age In Place — And Not Feel Alone

This story additionally ran on USA Today. This story will be republished free of charge (details).

Nancy Delano, 80, of Denver has no plans to decelerate anytime quickly. She nonetheless drives to films, performs and dinners out with buddies. A retired elder care nurse who lives alone, she additionally is aware of that “when you reach a certain age, emergencies can happen fast.” So, when her son, Tom Rogers, talked to her about putting in a distant monitoring system, she didn’t hesitate.

With movement sensors positioned all through the home, Rogers can see if his mother is shifting round, if she’s sleeping (or not), if she forgot to lock the door and, primarily based on a complicated algorithm that detects behavioral patterns, whether or not her exercise degree or consuming habits have modified considerably, as an illustration.

“It gives both of us peace of mind, particularly as she ages and wants to live at home,” stated Rogers, who lives close to Washington, D.C., tons of of miles away from her.

At $45-$60 a month (plus an upfront charge of $100 to $200),’s Wellness system is markedly cheaper than choices equivalent to hiring a house well being aide to test on her or shifting her right into a retirement group. The common price of nursing residence care exceeds $95,000 a 12 months, whereas assisted residing and in-home care tops $45,000 yearly, based on a 2017 Genworth Financial report.

The exorbitant prices of nursing residence and assisted residing care are driving gross sales — and innovation — within the know-how market, stated Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and creator of “The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care.”

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For many, the know-how presents not simply the instruments they should proceed to reside at residence, however newfound confidence and connectedness with faraway household and buddies.

Topol calls it “monitored independence,” and it’s altering how older generations age in America. “People want to be autonomous, irrespective of age,” he stated.

That was definitely the case for Carol Smith, 83, who lives within the Carlsbad by the Sea retirement group in Carlsbad, Calif., together with her husband, Ray, 84. “I’m in a wheelchair, so I depend on my husband a lot,” she stated.

The Smiths had been launched to the Amazon Echo final February by a pilot program for seniors. Carol is now in a position to management lights and the thermostat. She can ask Alexa to remind her to take medicines, or to name her brother and even to name for assist.

“It gives her a great deal of independence,” Ray stated. “If for some reason I have to be away, she’s able to function on her own. It’s keeping her safe, but closely related to that, it’s allowing her to be independently safe.”

Voice-assistive applied sciences just like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and HomePod are prone to play an even bigger position in serving to seniors age in place, particularly when paired with apps geared particularly for senior residing, predicts Majd Alwan, govt director of the MainAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST). AskMarvee, as an illustration, integrates with Amazon Echo through a web-based portal to permit seniors to right away join with relations for a fast check-in or if one thing extra critical is happening. (The Basic app is free; premium variations price $15 or $20 monthly.)

LifePod, to be launched later this 12 months, takes voice-assisted know-how a step additional, stated Laurie Orlov, founding father of Aging in Place Technology Watch. It will permit customers to have interaction with the system, very similar to Alexa, however can even periodically test in with them impartial of a voice immediate, at preprogrammed intervals:  Good morning, Nancy. Did you bear in mind to take your remedy?

Mike Willis takes 27 drugs a day, most of them anti-rejection medicine to make sure that his physique doesn’t reject the center transplant he acquired 2½ years in the past. He makes use of an app known as Medisafe to assist him hold observe of when it’s time for his subsequent dose. (Courtesy of Mike Willis)

For Mike Willis, 63, of Guelph, Ontario, getting common remedy prompts means the distinction between staying wholesome and ending up within the hospital — once more. Willis takes 27 drugs a day, most of them anti-rejection medicine to make sure that his physique doesn’t reject the center transplant he acquired 2½ years in the past after contracting viral myocarditis. To hold all of it straight, he makes use of Medisafe, an app that reminds him when it’s time to take his subsequent dose, whether or not to take the drugs with water or meals, and what uncomfortable side effects is likely to be attributable to the remedy.

“After my transplant, I was a little confused, so I designated my wife, Linda, as a ‘MedFriend,’ which meant she got an alert when I didn’t take my medication,” he stated. (The app is free; the Premium model, with extra reminder and Medfriend options, prices $four.99 a month.)

Indeed, the flexibility to designate a liked one as a second set of eyes and ears will be comforting moderately than intrusive, as Willis and Delano have found. And but, there’s a fantastic line between know-how that permits older adults to reside independently, and know-how that reinforces stereotypical pictures of growing old as a gradual decline towards demise.

Until not too long ago, Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) — made well-known by the “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” TV adverts — was the one dependable know-how to assist older adults who had fallen, says David Lindeman, director of the Center for Technology and Aging on the University of California-Berkeley.

By the tip of this month, MedHab, a Texas firm finest recognized for its wearable insoles for rehab sufferers, will start delivery MyNotifi, a medical alert wristband designed to detect falls and ship an alert to a member of the family or good friend. “It looks like a watch, and Mom or Dad can invite anybody they want, family or friends, to get those alerts through the MyNotifi Fall Detection app,” stated MedHab President and CEO Johnny Ross. (The system is accessible for preorder at $299.)

Similar fall detection applied sciences in varied levels of testing embrace SafelyYou, which makes use of wall-mounted cameras and software program algorithms to detect falls, and UnaliWear’s Kanega watch, which mixes fall detection, voice-assisted emergency help and medicine reminders.

“If the goal is independent and connected living, we need solutions that are multifaceted and that connect people with their family, their doctors, their neighbors,” stated Jody Holtzman, senior managing accomplice of Longevity Venture Advisors. “If the technology is framed in the context of fun and convenience, like Alexa, then people will start to buy these things.”

Carol Smith can’t think about life with out Alexa. When I learn, “I just say, ‘Alexa, what does this word mean?’ Or I ask Alexa to play the song. Oh, and I’m a basketball fan, but if I can’t stay up late to watch the end of the game, I’ll ask Alexa what the score is the next morning. There are so many things you can ask her. She’s fun. And she’s always pleasant.”

KHN’s protection associated to growing old and bettering care of older adults is supported partly by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

Gabi Redford: @gredford

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