Aging in Place Technology Roundup 2019 — Background for Family Caregivers

Aging in Place Technology Roundup 2019 — Background for Family Caregivers

We believe technology advances are the most important innovations for our future lives and continue to provide information on tech so family caregivers are in the best position to help senior loved ones utilize that tech for healthier, safer, and happier lives.

We have been telling you a lot about what we saw and heard at CES® 2019 on current innovations and those in the pipeline. Today, though, we want to step back and provide some background.

We also want to ask you to help us help you with our technology coverage and hope you’ll take our two-minute survey to help shape our directions with regard to tech and innovation overall.

For family caregivers and older adults, the goal now for technology is to improve the aging experience. It isn’t enough to make a call on a cell phone or play cards on the computer.

How will technology improve quality of life, independence and safety for our senior loved ones?

That is the measuring stick family caregivers are now using when considering adding technology to their senior’s life.

We have come a long way with what is possible and available that can fill gaps and help caregivers meet the needs of their loved ones but there is still more coming that many will find priceless.

Here are some of the latest trends we found that might help family caregivers and older adults learn more about what is possible for them to live their best lives.

Trends and Updates in Technology Useful for Seniors

Innovations in technology are coming at a fast and furious pace. That means family caregivers can find it difficult to keep on top of what devices and gadgets can help them.

It is up to you and your family to decide what problem needs a solution, how to pay for it (some LTC policies may help with the cost) and how best to put it into daily practice. But all that will be worth it with some of these tech solutions.

Here are some you may or may not have heard about yet.

Robotics

Caregivers know companionship and fighting loneliness can be a constant battle. You can’t be there 24/7 to interact or entertain seniors. Robotics may help provide company at the same time they fill a need such as safety or connectivity to you and the rest of their friends and family.

One such companion robot that is coming is called MiRo. It is a social robot, hybrid animal shaped companion robot which operates as a reactive pet. It has 3D eyesight, is both light and touch sensitive, has echo location, stereo hearing packaged in a distinct personality. It will interact easily with your senior. The MiRo Project is from Consequential Robotics.

We thought this short video would provide some valuable insight.

Other companion robots are also available, such as Hector who works with smart home technology to facilitate aging in place independence for seniors.

There are telepresence devices that act as iPhones or tablets on a moving figure such as Buddy, Lynx, PAL, Ohmni Labs or Beam to name just a few of the robots that are out there right now.

Game Playing

How many times have you seen an older adult sitting with their tablet in their lap playing a game? Maybe solitaire, crosswords, puzzles, or Tetris? Perhaps some of the newer games that their grandchildren have downloaded for them like World of Warcraft are their new favorites. How about words with friends playing against and with family members and friends to see who can get the word faster?

We often hear people say playing games is a real time waster and drain on productive time which is often true.

However, research from Simon Fraser University in the Connect Play project shows that digital games bring health benefits to our senior loved ones. Sounds like it is time to play! Study participants played online Scrabble, mahjong, chess, and solitaire.

Apparently needing to play with strategy can improve cognition. Games like Angry Bird can improve their functional status and reaction time in addition to cognition.

Social engagement and cognitive stimulation are improved with gaming. Researchers point out that it is important to not only slow down mental decline with age but also improve social connectedness.

They found that playing games using technology can fight loneliness, isolation and depression that often accompany aging in place older adults even while playing alone since only 30% report playing with others.

Researcher Andrew Sixsmith, who is Professor of Gerontology and Scientific Director of Age-Well, states that devices and games need to be easier to use and more accessible to people.

Laundry List of Current and Future Tech Solutions

  1. Transportation needs met with ride sharing even when seniors don’t or won’t use an app. GoGoGrandparent.com is a service to call a ride using any phone – no smartphone or app needed.
  2. Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) has been around for many years but now it are more user friendly and the devices are attractive. Many are invisible to others, as they look like jewelry which reduces their stigma so that seniors will actually use them. Broadband connectivity has also allowed these devices to be used out in the community not just at home which is a great benefit!
  3. Internet of Things, where an ever-increasing variety of devices are connected and work together to make function in a way to make a home’s residents healthier, safer, and more comfortable, as well as communicate with caregivers remotely. Now the devices talk to each other better too!
  4. Apple Watch, which can track health (even taking an EKG), monitor falls, send emails, and make calls!
  5. Voice controlled devices — a growing multitude of devices can be controlled by voice with Alexa or Google — can help seniors get information, music, control home devices, and get emergency help without needing to push buttons.
  6. Medication reminders and pill dispensers help ensure medicine is taken in the proper amounts at the doctor-directed times.
  7. AbleData is a site maintained for the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to help learn more about specific products; “database for unbiased, comprehensive information on products, solutions and resources to improve productivity and ease life’s tasks.”
  8. Pathway lighting with remote or motion activated light sensors adds safety around the home.
  9. Dragon voice activated device control program to help type or fill out forms or do email online. Can use with iPhone, iPad or iPod touch for text messages, emails or note files. There is also a version to help control the home PC.
  10. Siri or other voice activated assistants on smartphones or tablets can help with starting apps and getting things done without needing hands-on control.
  11. Technology enhanced rehabilitation programs to improve hand=eye coordination.
  12. Vital sign monitoring devices, such as smart scales, glucose sensors, blood pressure monitor, etc., that link to healthcare professionals and caregivers.
  13. iPad loaded to give medication reminders by audio or face to face check ins with providers.
  14. Home sensors that pattern behavior and monitor connected devices, like medication boxes reporting abnormal activity to caregiver remotely.
  15. Smart clothing that monitors health and sends alerts to caregivers if any changes occur.
  16. Virtual pets, such as GeriJoy and Joy For All pets, in a tablet or robotic form that provide companionship and socialization.
  17. Autonomous vehicles, which will one day help seniors and others get where they need to go without having to drive or rely on others.

Creating Senior Technology They Need and Want

Seniors are the fastest growing group of new computer users right now, as it did take them a bit longer to adopt technology compared to younger adults. But boy are they catching up fast!

One survey found that 71% of caregivers are interested in technology to support their caregiving tasks but only 7% are currently using available technology.

Most caregivers responded that they don’t know what is best for them because there are many options. Increasing knowledge and awareness of the products on the market and how it can improve caregiving.

They might use individual solutions but really want a platform to encompass more devices. They also want peace of mind, they want to be able to check in to see if seniors are safe and don’t yet trust that the current devices are worth the expense.

But have we asked the senior what they want in order to make the effort to use technology?

The Aging 2.0 tech conference entitled “Seniors Shaping Technology: Your Opinion Matters” was a giant leap forward for those in the field of aging who promote connectivity and the latest tech innovations for older adults.

The time has finally come when seniors can have a voice in influencing tech devices and what will actually come to market to fill a need for older adults. In an expo format, each product was reviewed by the seniors for usability, desirability or not interested.

Do they have enough knowledge to even know if they would benefit before they reviewed each item? That is a question that will be answered in the future as more seniors adopt technology and give feedback on their experiences.

There is no question that technology is here to stay and it can help family caregivers improve the quality of life of their senior loved ones. Now is the time to learn more about what is available and how it can help your family.

We will continue to bring you more information and keep on top of the trends in technology helpful for seniors and family caregivers.

Before you go, we really hope you’ll take a couple minutes to complete our survey and help tailor our future technology coverage here at Senior Care Corner®. Thank you for helping us help you!

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