I try and vary the subject matter in my blogs and take a broad look at all the different aspects of trying to stay in your own home as you age. There are several moving parts that have to be considered to keep the train on the tracks. You have to maintain your independence in housing, transportation and financial matters as well as have your mental and physical stamina and social quotients all add up.
One of the areas I do not ‘report’ on enough is the race for smart technology to solve some of the challenges of older adults living alone. Let me take you on a magic carpet ride of some of the latest offerings. I have realized one of the reasons I do not write that much about this subject is my steadfast rule about not promoting individual product or services. So I will refer to these creations by name in italics not by direct web link. You can do further research on your own and rate the pros and cons of adding some super tech to your home or to your home of a family member.
I will list them in four categories:
Newer mobile alert systems
Monitoring/Bio tech sensor systems
Realize that there are several reasons for the current 30 billion dollar investment in smart technology to help seniors age in place. One of those is the staggering fact now almost one half of all women over the age of 75 live alone.
First: the newer mobile PERS systems. PERS stands for Personal Emergency Response Systems. Everyone has seen the, “I have fallen and I can’t get up,” version. The newer systems, like mPERS , PhillipsLifeline GoSafe and Great Call Splash ( with GPS) and MobileHelp are devices that you wear not just in your home. You buy the device, pay a monthly fee and you can summon help wherever you are. I would venture there has to also be a WiFi connection. Some newer versions are being developed to identify a fall even if you do not call. A positive factor for these systems is that you may feel more confident in getting out more to socialize or take care of your own errands. The kindness of strangers and calling 911 are hopefully out there as well.
Second: the medication minders. I guess you could program commands for an Echo or other cylindrical wonder to remind you of your medications. A plastic box with the days of the weeks staring back at you to say you need to take me today, is not always enough. Supposedly it can remind you of other things to do as well. There is one called Reminder Rosie and another called Carezone.
Third: computer communication by skill level. Thanks to the concept of Skype grand-parenting, more older seniors embrace video chat technology. Some systems make it easier to log on and highlight what the viewer wants to see most of the time. GeriJoy is kind of a Skype plus, it offers a virtual pet (a dog or a cat) on the screen that will talk to you. With the increasing sophistication of the boomer crowd, these computers may seem redundant. Younger seniors aka boomers are used to live chat on Facebook, texting 24/7 and other things that really smart phones are capable of. Some of the systems offer care coordination as part of the package like Independa.
Fourth: Bio tech sensors or what I call spectator monitoring. The names say it all: The surveillance systems, Evermind and Be Close send text message to the ‘watcher’ about all levels of activity including breathing and moving. In reality this is often a frailer person accepting the watchful eye as a condition to stay where they want. Letting your loved ones or the responsible agency know if you just did not want to get out of bed this morning must generate some interesting follow up calls.
This last one is not a reality yet but it kind of spooked me. It is called SensoTRACK. It is a device that you wear on your ear. It captures oxygen saturation, respiration and heart rate as well as mood. The goal is to prevent or to catch a problem early. The mood monitoring part is kind of eerie – you are a walking ICU and you better keep your spirits up, despite the fact that you are a walking ICU.
This is the future that technology offers us. Let us hope that the human element does not get lost in the quest to build a better gadget. It should protect us but also empower us.