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!

Family Caregiver Technology Survey — Please Help Us Help You

Supporting family caregivers in your efforts to make better the lives of senior loved ones is the mission of Senior Care Corner®.

One aspect of our work is keeping you informed regarding technology that can, either directly or indirectly, help make seniors’ lives healthier, safer, more comfortable – – or just plain fun.

Through our ongoing coverage of all things technology, including CES® the annual technology innovation showcase, we work to keep you informed regarding tech that is currently available and innovations still in the pipeline.

We have learned over time that the Senior Care Corner audience has a wide range of knowledge, interests, and experience when it comes to technology and thus a variety of needs.

We have developed this short survey to help us better understand your needs and tailor our reporting to better meet those needs. Your response, which should take just a couple of minutes, will be used by us to design our future technology coverage and deliver information to you.

We appreciate your assistance and hope you will pass this along to others as well!

Simply click on your answers below. Please scroll through each of the questions and click “Done” after the last question to submit your responses.

Thank you for your help!

 

Create your own user feedback survey

CES 2019 Recap – Innovation for Everyday Life and Beyond

There were, as expected, many new and interesting tech developments on display at CES® 2019.

Some were interesting albeit not useful a least for home use. A huge appliance taking up otherwise useful space in the home to fold laundry? Really? And who really needs to bake 10 loaves of bread in their kitchen?

But there were also products that continue to advance toward the category of life changing and enabling for seniors to continue to age in place as they desire, with safety and happiness.

Technical buzzwords were flying all over this greatest gathering of technology innovators in the world – CES 2019. This year, it was encouraging how many will specifically impact our seniors and the family caregivers who love them, many of whom may be footing the bill for the new tech and/or responsible for setting up and maintaining it.

Key Observations from CES 2019

We saw a number of buzzwords and trends across CES 2019 that we believe will be important for seniors and family caregivers. We plan to spend more time on these in the future, but want to identify them now to get you, as caregivers, familiar.

  • Tech impacts all aspects of our lives
  • 5G
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Needs of those with hearing loss
  • LIDAR
  • Autonomous vehicles

It’s impossible to cover these topics completely in a few sentences. In fact, some of them will take entire articles to address over time. In this article we will discuss the topics within the context of CES 2019 and expand from there over time.

Tech Impacts All Aspects of our Lives

CES was, for a long time, called the Consumer Electronics Show, which really painted a fairly accurate picture of what was prevalent. We could find televisions, sounds systems, and all sorts of gadgets for nerds.

How things have changed!

This year, for the first time, we got the feeling there is no part of everyday life that was not addressed by the innovation at CES. That will not thrill everyone, of course, but there are benefits in most of it for everyone.

CES had innovation for sleeping, eating, working, relaxing – – even going to the bathroom! There were focuses on tech for babies through the oldest adults for health, fitness, transportation, and, well, everything.

Even more importantly, though, there is tech for every aspect of the lives of our senior loved ones.

5G

5G is the next generation of wireless communications technology promising much faster communications speeds. It is not just for our phones, though.

Improving the speed and viability of connections with 5G in our devices and powering technology doesn’t just mean that the smartphone will work faster or we could download a movie faster, but older adults will be able to access their healthcare professionals, transfer health data, and get the help they need in a more efficient way.

5G will power communications for devices across our homes, including appliances, outlets, switches and so much more, keeping them from bogging down what are already overloaded wireless networks in many homes.

It will also connect digital devices across our communities giving such things as traffic systems, electric grids, first responder systems, and increase communications speed and reliability.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will definitely improve the in-home care received, home sensing systems, and usable medical devices our seniors and us as family caregivers will be able to use.

Check out information about the age of AI in our recent article, Why AI is Important to Seniors and Their Family Caregivers.

As an update to that article, we encountered two companies, CarePredict and Cherry Home, already incorporating AI into monitoring systems for seniors’ homes to personalize the monitoring.

Needs of Those with Hearing Loss

We were pleasantly surprised by the attention and number of solutions we found for those with hearing loss.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, though, as tech companies have realized the buying power of the older adult market and hearing loss is one of the problems faced by those who are aging – – but really those of all ages.

While traditional hearing aids were on display at CES, highlights for us were advances in cochlear implants and the adaptation of earbuds to be hearing enhancement devices. Now there is a full range of products for those with hearing loss, starting at price points that are much more attractive than in the past.

LIDAR

We heard about LIDAR (think radar using lasers) all over CES. This is the technology that is going to let our devices, from cars to home monitors and more, “see” what is needed to operate effectively.

We saw a number of LIDAR-generated images in different contexts – they looked like pictures out of The Matrix – and it is amazing how well defined the nature and dimensions of the digital pictures are without providing privacy-invading personal detail.

Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous (self-driving) vehicles continue to be improved and in the next 5-10 years (optimistic) experts agree we could all be involved in driving in the backseat. In the meantime, how would you feel about ‘autopilot’?

It seems that the auto industry will be able to take more baby steps in the direction of vehicle assisted driving as we are seeing in the technology in our cars right now like lane assistance and parallel parking, automatic braking, and more. The sensors and systems being installed in our cars now will only continue to advance to provide for greater safety.

Tech for Seniors and Caregivers Abundant

There are many products that we found roaming the 3 million square feet of show floor packed full with exhibits.

Here is just a sampling of some of the helpful things we found that we see as viable for our senior loved ones as they age in place and family caregivers who seek to facilitate the highest possible care we can provide.

  1. Home monitoring systems — including AI-enabled systems from CarePredict and Cherry Home that learn about seniors and incorporate what they learned into the monitoring processes
  2. Connected home — devices that not only engage the senior but talk among themselves too
  3. Digital health and eHealth improving devices
  4. Voice first communications — using Google Home, Alexa, Siri, and all the home products that are partnering with these assistants to bring a truly connected ecosystem to the home
  5. Home medical diagnostics — including connected home devices for blood pressure monitoring, home EKG, ultrasound, medication management, blood clotting prevention, Omron BP watch, hearing tests, and MORE
  6. Wearables — not just fitness and GPS trackers but now hearables; devices are also becoming truly “wearable” being incorporated into clothing
  7. Home security — this remains a big area, with the number of both vendor and DIY systems expanding as are their capabilities
  8. Caregiving robots — many people may envision the Jetson’s Rosie but the reality of caregiving robotics is more simple and ultimately in the future more accessible than that. No one, even the developers, anticipate it should or will replace human caregivers but instead augment a shortage of caregivers and relieve family caregivers of at least some burden.
  9. Telepresence devices — such as OhmniLabs product are built not only to give necessary services and connections to alleviate loneliness or isolation of aging in place seniors but to be affordable. The inventor said he scaled down design knowing that cost to caregivers is key to getting the product in use. We agree.

There are many other robotic applications currently providing companionship which is in itself welcome therapy. In the future we expect to see more hands on care given such as medication dispensing or simply fetching a glass of water. Eventually, in the years ahead, we may see physical caregiving and ADL assistance performed but that is not a goal in the foreseeable future.

Combating loneliness, providing supervision and another set of “eyes” that can ease the mind for working family caregivers while being a hub to coordinate reminders and treatments are true near term solutions that robotics can offer seniors and family caregivers. We already see them being used in items like Joy for All and MobileHelp.

Tech Future Looking Caregiver-Friendly

The greatest advance that we see is that family caregivers will have more access to tech devices that are are being manufactured to work together.

Going away are the days that each device stood alone with its own app. Now we will have hubs that make having a connected home a one stop destination. Not only will family caregivers be able to use them more efficiently and remotely, but seniors themselves will be able to comfortably use these devices.

Another great improvement for family caregivers to helping their seniors gain benefit from technology is the DIY aspect of technology devices. They will be easier to purchase from big box stores such as Best Buy and to install via Bluetooth.

We won’t need to run wires all over the home to connect security systems or safety sensors but instead use the air waves to connect. We may still need help from companies to totally convert homes but adding a few specific devices can be done ourselves.

Data and Security Big Considerations

Discussions around CES delved into access to broadband, use of data collected, and the security of the systems used for data collection and storage.

Having access to broadband in all homes, regardless of their physical location (urban vs. rural) will be key to success. Cost of broadband service will hopefully not price seniors out of the market and deny them benefit from technology.

Another big concern is security. Where does your senior’s health and personal data go once collected? Who has the ability to use their data and do we approve of this as a fair trade off for its benefits are questions, not only for family caregivers but consumers in general.

Unfortunately the jury may still be out on the regulatory aspects, which may stall manufacturers from working to secure their products. Until someone tells them they must, will they? Transparency concerns of the general public may drive manufacturers to more tightly control security of the data measured in all tech devices and that is our hope.

Innovation Focus

Whew, we had a tough time covering the entire exhibit floor at CES 2019 and can’t adequately cover all the innovation we found in one article – – or even in a series of articles.

Coming soon is a whole new site-within-a-site for Senior Care Corner®, to focus on innovation that improves the lives of seniors and their family caregivers. That includes technology, services, care, and each area in which we find innovation about which caregivers would benefit from knowing.

Stay tuned to learn more soon . . .

 

 

Why AI is Important to Seniors and Their Family Caregivers

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is everywhere at CES® 2019 and may be the hottest topic in conference sessions and on the exhibit floor.

There are 490 exhibitors in the directory under the heading “Artificial Intelligence” and it seems like most of the other 4,000+ are talking about it as well.

With all the benefits of AI being touted for independent-living seniors — well, for everyone, really — it’s enough to cause a conscientious family caregiver to say “I have to go buy an AI for my senior loved one.”

No, you can’t buy an AI.

Then again, many of the technology devices, appliances, cars, smartphones and more we buy in the future will have AI in them — and that will be a good thing. Strike that, it will be a GREAT thing.

Then again, we already are impacted by AI in our daily lives without even knowing it.

What Is AI?

As with a number of terms, we have seen more than one definition of artificial intelligence. This may be the most straightforward, though:

Artificial Intelligence is when machines perform functions that, if done by a person, would be considered to require intelligence, such as learning and problem solving.

We saw a poster at CES, created by LG for its AI products, that seems especially appropriate for application to our senior loved ones. Think of a machine or digital device that takes this approach:

We think the best way to help you is to learn deeper about you.That’s why we work to understand your needs, your habits, your preferences, and even your moods.

As family caregivers, we know the care we provide our senior loved ones is the best we can do because we know and understand them and what they are going through. Ideally, the technology we use to support us in caring for them should do the same.

AI Caregiving Examples

Maybe the easiest way to understand what AI will mean to our senior loved ones is with a few examples comparing AI-enabled support to what we might expect for current technology.

Activity Monitoring

Current technology: Sends a notification if the senior is not out of bed by a predetermined time in the morning.

AI-enabled technology: Knows that the senior did not go to bed until later than normal and, when that happens, she typically stays in bed later. Thus no notification is sent.

“Wandering” Dementia Patient

Current technology: The senior’s activity tracker notes he has left the house when not scheduled to do so and provides notification as programmed into the technology.

AI-enabled technology: Observed that the senior’s best friend came to the home for an unplanned visit and, as typically happens when he visits, they went for a walk. Thus no notification is sent.

Injury Detection

Current technology: Home monitoring system notes senior moving about the home and provides no notification of needed action.

AI-enabled technology: Observes the senior is limping significantly and displays facial expressions indicating pain. Because the senior was observed having an unusual body movement (perhaps a fall) the prior day, the system determines there is an injury that may require medical care and sends notification.

Conversational Companion

Current technology: Companion robot or device carries on conversations with senior, responding to questions and providing feedback to the senior’s words, but provides no medical feedback based on the interactions.

AI-enabled technology: Companion robot or device carries on conversations with senior and notices changes in questions (including repetition), words used, and mood change overtime. As a result of observed changes, device provides notification that senior should be reviewed by a physician for potential Alzheimer’s diagnosis or depression.

These are but a few examples of the many benefits independent living seniors can realize from AI-enabled technology in their homes.

We Prepare Now to Help Them Prepare Later

The future benefits of artificial intelligence for our senior loved ones are the reasons why we believe family caregivers should start now in understanding AI.

If we are ready for AI to enter their homes, we can better help them prepare and accept the technology.

Remember, even the best, most intelligent technology will not provide benefits if the senior doesn’t allow technology into the home and put it to use.

Stay tuned to Senior Care Corner® for more of what we learned at CES 2019 regarding AI and other useful technology for seniors and family caregivers.

 

 




CES 2019 to Showcase Tech Impacts Throughout Everyday Life

It’s two days before CES® 2019 officially opens so things are quiet, right? Not so fast!

Media events started today, meaning lines, crowded rooms – – and the beginning of the information flow from the greatest show in tech.

More than that, really, as CES 2019 looks more than ever to give us insight into the world of our everyday lives of tomorrow.

If Walt Disney were designing EPCOT right now, he would be at CES learning about the innovations that will define our world of tomorrow.

We hear much about technology trends today, but saw one event that may be one of the biggest signs to come out of CES 2019.

Proctor and Gamble, maybe the name most associated with everyday life, is exhibiting at CES for the first time and held a press event today. That a traditional consumer products company, one we would not associate with technology, is here truly speaks to the connection between the innovation on display at CES and our lives.

Tech Trending in Our Everyday Lives

Sure, technology has always impacted our everyday live and CES has always been a showcase for tech such as TVs, computers, audio systems, appliances, and more.

Things are different this year, though, with the innovations on display and being discussed at CES addressing more areas of our lives than we have seen previously.

Here are but a few of the areas of impact we saw on display on the first day of CES activities.

Healthcare

Yes, technology innovations in healthcare have been part of CES for some time, but this year they are addressing more and broader areas of our lives, with more of the solutions intended for consumers rather than provider of care. These are just some of the topics addressed.

  • There is more than ever before about mental health, a needed focus area of late in healthcare overall.
  • Innovation addressing brain health, with recognition of the devastating impacts of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Telehealth, changing the way care is providing and increasing access to care for many.
  • Advances in home health devices, making it possible for more seniors and others with chronic illness to live independently.

Even Smarter Homes

For years we have been seeing and hearing how many aspects of our interactions with our homes have been changing as they become connected to us digitally. That continues to advance.

This year, though, the smart home focus seems to be turning more to devices communicating directly with each other, reducing the need for human interaction to provide us benefits.

Sure, some will see these advances, with our homes becoming not just connected but intelligent, as unnecessary conveniences and even intrusive, but for many of our senior loved ones these advances will mean the ability to live independently even longer.

Digital Privacy and Security

Our increasingly connected world has resulted in the creation of more data on us in the last few years than has been generated in all the year that have come before.

Unfortunately the abundance of data has led to well-founded concerns about how that data is used and how secure it is in the hands of those collecting and keeping it.

This slide, part of the “CES 2019 Trends to Watch” presentation from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) shows the interaction of many of our new technologies and how we see them in the marketplace, with part of the impact on us being our security and privacy in the digital world.

Continuing Evolution of Technology

Once concept we found particularly interesting was the idea put forth by the CTA that we are entering a new age of technology, the data age.

Thinking about it, we do take being connected to each other and the world around us by technology for granted. We don’t, for example, think about our broadband internet connections until they are not performing as expected or even not keeping us connected at all.

With everything and (hopefully) everyone being connected, technology will be defined more and more by the data about us and our lives that is being created and how that data is being used to make our lives better.

Oh, yes, and how we are protecting that data from being misused to our detriment.

One Product to Remember

There were MANY things that caught our eyes as we moved from table to table in CES Unveiled today. Learning about each was like trying to work in a room full of squirrels, as there was always something in the corner of our eyes.

We encountered one innovative product that we think will be of interested to family caregivers with loved ones who have chronic heart failure. You may be surprised to hear it is a t-shirt! No, this is not just any t-shirt, but a true wearable.

Chronolife has developed a wearable solution that discretely tracks patient data while they go about their everyday lives. Through the user’s smartphone, data is sent to the healthcare provider, who is able to monitor patients in between office visits.

Tracking alone would be a meaningful solution, but Chronolife’s wearable goes further, with predictive capabilities that allow for action to be taken before the next event occurs.

This device will not be available directly to consumers, but will be prescribed by healthcare providers along with instructions for its use. By making family caregivers aware of it, we hope to provide information about a potential solution you and your senior loved one can discuss with their doctor.

More to Come from CES 2019

The half day of media activities at CES 2019 whet our appetites even more for what is to come.

We look forward to sharing more with you throughout the event and afterward.

For real-time updates on items we feel are noteworthy for family caregivers, follow our tweets on @SrCareCorner.

We are CES Ready!

 

Eating Well While Growing Older – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

As we age, many older adults tend to change the way they eat. This change may be intentional for many and while for others it is done unknowingly.

Many will eat less thinking their bodies don’t need as much food because they aren’t as physically active as they once were.

This way of thinking may be true for overall number of calories but not for nutritional content.

Some older adults experience more trouble with chewing and swallowing foods when they eat, taste foods differently, don’t feel like preparing meals for one, feel lonesome during meal times, fear ‘healthier’ foods are too expensive, or overly restrict what they eat because they are trying to control a chronic disease.

One or all of these reasons may be influencing what your senior loved one is eating (or not eating) and impacting not only their health but, also unknowingly, their quality of life.

Caregivers can help by identifying potential gaps in their senior loved ones’ nutrition and then filling those gaps for their health.

Aging and Impaired Nutrition

A large percentage of older adults (those over 65) have multiple chronic diseases that can affect their nutritional status. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), 80% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have two or more.

A poor diet while aging can lead to frailty which results in becoming nutritionally compromised, making it harder for older adults to fight sickness or stress. Reduced muscle mass leading to impaired functional status and even malnutrition (undernutrition) can also occur.

A loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to falls. A senior falls every 11 seconds. Unfortunately, falls are the leading cause of fractures, head trauma, hospitalization and injury deaths for older adults, per the NCOA.

Cognitive impairment can worsen nutritional health because unintentional weight loss is common in those with dementia. Lower food intake, increased physical movement (pacing, etc.), reduced resting energy expenditure (metabolism), or a combination contribute to weight loss and impaired nutrition.

Getting enough healthy food, especially foods that include protein and essential nutrients, such as calcium and B vitamins, can make independence harder to maintain as our senior loved ones age.

Caregivers Can Help

Older adults may need help staying healthy, especially when their appetites begin to wane.

Family caregivers can help older adults stay on track, eat nutrient dense foods, shop for healthy foods on a budget, and facilitate putting meals on the table when they can’t always do it for themselves.

Here are ways family caregivers can help seniors eating well everyday from the National Institute of Aging and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (association of Registered Dietitians). Get them to…

  1. Eat a variety of foods from all food groups, don’t skip important foods
  2. Choose fruits and vegetables at each meal. Use fresh, frozen, or canned to stay in budget and make preparation as easy as possible.
  3. Eat a rainbow of foods to get the maximum amounts of essential vitamins and minerals.
  4. Include whole grains, protein, and dairy foods at each meal.
  5. Drink plenty of fluids, including water. As we age, our sense of thirst diminishes so we need to drink often. Avoid sugar sweetened beverages.
  6. Invite friends and families to share a meal to reduce loneliness and boredom. Most seniors will eat more when they have someone join them.
  7. Flavor food with herbs and spices instead of salt. The tastier a food is, the more they may eat.
  8. If dental problems are keeping your senior from eating a variety of foods, it is time for a dental checkup.
  9. If they aren’t eating enough, talk with the doctor about starting a nutritional/vitamin/mineral supplement.

Additional Resources

Caregivers can get creative when helping seniors eat a more nutritious diet.

Here are more ways you can help your senior avoid malnutrition that could keep them from aging in place successfully.