I wanted to take another look at the developing age in place technologies that are geared towards monitoring you in your home. Surveillance is a too strong a word and I do not mean to imply that all such devices, whether in the walls, in the heels of your shoes, or on your wrist, are another version of the Truman show. When it comes down to be able to stay in your own home as you age, would you ever agree to have some level of big brother be watching over literally your every move or lack there of?
We have moved forward somewhat from the I have fallen and I can not get up ads, but we may have gone too far in another direction. Many of the newer techie offerings simple detect movement or lack thereof. In looking at what companies are working on/or already commercially available, they seem to have one thing in common. There is an alert that is sent to a designated person if you do not move for 8-12 hours! if you have not moved in 12 hours, I would think that it may be a bit late…or you took off your shoes.
Some systems monitor how often you have opened the refrigerator door, or if have you opened you medication bottles etc. I get it. If a caretaker adult child is at a distance can have a system in place to have a local designee go check on their loved one, it has value. There is a researcher from Michigan State trying to make WiFi the element that keeps track so the elder person does not have to wear a device. Yet they would know when you have fallen or even activity that predicts a fall. I see body heat maps – ringing alarms.
Alarms are to alert you of trouble. If you are away and someone jimmies your cellar door, a alarm goes off to send someone to investigate. I do think this new door camera that you can answer through the phone is a good idea but I am concerned by voice or demeanor the unwelcome visitor may know who is more vulnerable. Our voices also age, women ahead of men again because of those pesky hormones.
So many of these advances seem to be to going backward. Are they assuming the frail of body are also frail of mind? In some retirement communities, in the step before assisted living, you simply have to ring a buzzer once a day before 10 am as your signal that everything is okay and no one comes a knocking. It gives the resident control over unnecessary intrusions.
This is a real dilemma on how to be mindful of privacy but also be mindful of safety. You may say this has nothing to do with you now. But maybe we should think ahead of another way to look at this. Here is a I have an idea moment. There are the wrist bands for fitness, what about wristbands for communication. if connected there is always the panic button but maybe also just checking in with a live human being on a regular basis. It might be the same in home worker/agency who knows and sees what else is going on in the home. Such a voluntary practice could forgo the monitoring matrix and still make people feel safe in their own homes.