Essential Safety & Warning Devices for Seniors’ Homes

An overwhelming majority of seniors wish to age in place — live in the home of their choice — whether that be in their current home, a smaller living space, with relatives, or in a senior living facility.

The same is true for those of us who are not yet seniors. We often hear statistics that put the number at close to 100% of us who wish to age in place.

But are their homes ready to keep them safe, healthy, and comfortable?

There are many things that we can do to make that a reality, including keeping our bodies as healthy and functional as possible, preventing chronic diseases or managing those diseases that we have while keeping our minds active.

Once you are in the home of your dreams, there are things that can be done to help make the home safe and secure.

Because we know how important these products are to seniors in their homes, we included a selection of each in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Smoke Detectors

A smoke detector/alarm will sense smoke in the area and alert when danger is present either audible, visually or both 24 hours a day.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms can be installed in your home, using batteries for power or being wired into your house’s electrical system. If they have batteries, they need to be checked for proper functioning regularly. Even those wired in will have a battery backup system that will need to be checked.

If it is powered by a 9 volt battery, it is recommended to check it every month, replacing the battery yearly and the entire unit every 8-10 years. The same schedule is true for wired alarms. Your senior may hear a characteristic chirp when the battery needs changing.

We are often reminded to change the battery in the smoke alarm. For many a good reminder is to do it each time we change our clocks for daylight saving time.

Smoke detectors/alarms are not expensive and can be installed relatively easily by many do-it-yourselfers. They should be placed in particular areas of your home, including every floor and the basement, near the bedrooms (in each bedroom if practical), and in the kitchen. Fire officials prefer smoke alarms be placed both inside and outside the sleeping area.

Smoke rises so be sure to install the alarms at the proper height according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Some fire departments will install home smoke alarms at no cost to your senior so contact your local department to see if they have such a program.

Fire officials warn that we should never disable a smoke alarm in the kitchen but instead ventilate the area to clear the smoke putting the alarm on ‘hush,’ not off.

If your senior is hard of hearing or would otherwise benefit from a strobe alarm in addition to the high pitched frequency of the usual smoke alarm, those are also available for home use. I

f a strobe would not awaken them if there is a fire at night, there are a growing number of systems that link into a bed shaker to ensure everyone is alerted to the danger.

Fire Extinguishers

Does your senior’s home have a portable fire extinguisher?

Do they know how to use it if needed?

Has it been checked to see if it is still functioning?

A fire extinguisher should be used when the fire is contained and can be controlled. Remember to always evacuate the home and contact the fire department BEFORE trying to put out the fire yourself.

It is recommended to have a portable fire extinguisher near the exit door to ensure that you can leave safely and get help.

Check out our Family Caregiver Video Tip about safety measures and proper techniques for using a fire extinguisher.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

These are devices that can detect the presence of carbon monoxide gas in your senior’s home, if applicable (see below), to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. It is very important to install a detector because carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer because it is an odorless gas that goes undetected until the damage is done.

CO is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas produced when carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, or wood are burned without enough oxygen. CO poisoning can happen slowly over time when small amounts of gas are present in the air or quickly when an event occurs that releases a great deal of the gas.

Winter months are especially dangerous when portable gas or oil heaters and generators are used without proper ventilation.

Carbon monoxide detectors will sound an alarm when gas is found so that the area can be properly ventilated and the source of the gas repaired. These units can be battery powered or hooked to a source of electricity. If they are powered by batteries, you will need to check the charge, as battery life varies greatly.

There are detectors that are installed directly into heating systems that will contact emergency personnel when CO reaches a level that is dangerous. CO detectors can be purchased in combination with a smoke alarm.

In the home, some common sources of CO include open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage without proper ventilation or insulation to the home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, loss of consciousness, pains in the chest or stomach, difficulty breathing, or vision problems. Long term exposure can result in brain damage.

Radon Testing

Why is radon testing important? “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon.

We think that’s a pretty strong call to action.

Did you know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer?

Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t see, taste, or smell radon and it may be in the air of your senior’s home. One in three homes tested contain higher than acceptable levels of radon, it is found in every state and is estimated to be in 8 million US homes.

Radon comes from a natural breakdown of uranium found in igneous rock and soil and in some cases well water. Radon released into the groundwater, soil and building materials of your senior’s home is in the air and your senior inhales the gas unknowingly exposing themselves to health risk.

Because it takes years to realize you are exposed, the only way to be aware of radon in your senior’s home is through testing. There are radon test kits and monitors you can purchase to check your senior’s home yourself or get a professional to test. If there are unsafe levels found in the home, these can be corrected.

Other Safety Precautions to Consider

There are a number of items to consider for the safety of your senior’s home, including these.

  • Security cameras – seniors can get a good view of who is around the house and you can monitor remotely to be sure that your senior is safe at home alone.
  • Safes and cash boxes – if your senior keeps valuables and cash in the home and you are afraid they may be targets, a safe will keep their valuables secure when other people are in and out of the home to provide services.
  • Motion sensing lights – there are lights that fit into existing sockets that will go on and off with motion. They can be helpful for the front or back porch or in hallways, closets or the basement or wherever your senior may have difficulty getting the light on in the middle of the night causing a fall.
  • Peepholes – easy to add to an existing door at just the right height so your senior can see who is knocking before they open the door to a stranger.
  • Security doors – specially designed door to withstand forced entry if the neighborhood they choose to live in is not as safe as it once was.
  • Medical alerts – signalers that can alert emergency personnel in the event of a fall or medical emergency can be lifesaving. Many personal emergency response systems can be remotely monitored by family members.
  • Programmable Thermostat – once set you can be sure that your senior’s home is maintained at a comfortable and healthy temperature all throughout the year. Many newer devices allow remote setting and monitoring using a smartphone.

Newer technology and advances in consumer electronics mean that we can help our senior loved ones stay healthy, safe, and comfortable at home a longer than ever before.

These are just some of the items you will want to consider and get installed if your senior’s home doesn’t have them or if the existing devices are malfunctioning or you want the additional functionality of the current devices.

All of these devices can be found in most hardware stores and many department stores, as well as online. You can also find a selection in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Expanding Senior Care Corner’s Information Offerings with Guest Articles

Senior Care Corner was born nine years ago as a labor of love by Kathy and me to fill what we saw as an information gap for family caregivers of older adults.

More than 1,000 articles (well, 1,031, but who’s counting), 74 podcasts, and several videos later, everything you read, hear, and see at Senior Care Corner, other than resources we provide in articles for your information, was produced by us.

Nine years later, Senior Care Corner is still a labor of love for us and we are proud of the feedback we get from readers who have found our site helpful and has made a difference to them and their senior loved ones.

We are working on a redesign of our home page to one that implements our early vision and reason we chose the name Senior Care Corner.

When we started the site, we envisioned an intersection of sorts, with resources for family caregivers on all four corners. That was the basis for the road sign logo.

With our upcoming home page redesign, that intersection will be front and center, with three resource areas we have now, plus a new area:

  • Our current Senior Care Corner information site;
  • Technology Corner, our new focus area for family caregivers;
  • The Shop at Senior Care Corner, which offers shopping tailored to the needs of family caregivers; and,
  • The Guest Article Corner, offering articles of interest to family caregivers, written by other experts.

We are excited about the possibilities the third corner may bring and the information resources other voices can provide.

What to Expect in Guest Articles

We have long considered offering an outlet for other voices at Senior Care Corner, but have been hesitant to do so. We receive multiple requests each day from those wishing to submit articles, many from writers we don’t recognize as experts able to provide you greater insights.

Guest articles you see at Senior Care Corner will offer resources, insights, or perspectives to enhance what we have provided over the years. They will be from writers or organizations most of you will recognize and whose expertise we have verified.

We will accept and publish articles from businesses we feel offer information or solutions of value to seniors and/or family caregivers, but will not allow blatant commercials.

Guest articles will not be edited for content by us, but we will not publish anything we feel is inappropriate or does not provide value to family caregivers of older adults.

We are hopeful this fourth corner will be just as vibrant and valuable to you as the other three and thus will feature all four on our soon to be redesigned home page.

Information for Potential Guest Article Writers

We welcome proposals for guest articles to be published on Senior Care Corner and have some guidelines for those considering doing so in order to ensure all content provides value to family caregivers of older adults.

  • Guest article must be appropriate for and relevant to the Senior Care Corner audience. Please review the articles on our site for insight into topics and tone.
  • All articles must be unique, written specifically for Senior Care Corner, and not be published elsewhere on the web.
  • Guest articles will only be accepted from individuals and organizations who are verifiable experts bringing unique expertise, resources, or insights to family caregivers.
  • Please submit proposals before sending articles, as we are respectful of your time and efforts. We will not accept or read articles that are unsolicited or otherwise sent without prior discussions and agreement.
  • While commercial products or services may be portrayed in an article as a solution to a problem faced by seniors and/or family caregivers, articles that are perceived as commercial in nature, in the sole judgment of Senior Care Corner, will not be published.
  • Articles should be at least 500 words in length and generally no more than 1,000 words. The focus should be on effective communication of your ideas rather than length.
  • Guest articles will not be edited by Senior Care Corner. However, writers will be required to revise any language that is determined to be unacceptable, for any reason, prior to publication.

Please send requests for more information and proposals for guest articles to Info@SeniorCareCorner.com.

We are looking forward to bringing you even more knowledge and practical insights from Senior Care Corner for your caregiving journey.

 

Stay tuned for our home page redesign and publication of our initial guest articles!

Survey Closer Look — Insights on Tech from Seniors Who Are Caregivers

As we often hear and read, the senior (65+) population is growing rapidly, more so than any other age group.

What you may not realize is that the number of senior family caregivers is also rising rapidly.

One in five adult caregivers, or more than 8 million in all, are seniors, according to the 2015 report Caregiving in the US from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Yet we seldom — if ever — see any research that considers the needs of older caregivers.

Even a recent report from the Consumer Technology Association, which we feel has been making real strides in consideration of older adults in their research, capped the age on the “caregivers” segment of their study at 64.

Given all of this, it was particularly gratifying to us that half of the responses to our recent technology survey were from seniors who consider themselves to be caregivers.

We feel the insights from and needs of these senior caregivers are important enough to merit a closer look on their own.

What the Survey Is — and Isn’t

This survey was conducted to provide us insight into our readership for purposes of planning our future technology coverage. As such, we make no claims that it is a statistically valid sampling of family caregivers — or even of those who visit Senior Care Corner®.

It is, though, an indication of the opinions of those in our audience who were kind enough to take the time to tell us what they think.

That is important to us and very much appreciated.

We also understand and will take into account that those who responded to the survey — and those who visit Senior Care Corner overall — are already, at a minimum, using the technology needed to connect to the web and may be more attuned to tech than other older adults and family caregivers.

Now that we have an understanding, onto the results of the survey.

The following survey results reflect those respondents who were 65+ and identified as family caregivers.

Question 3: Respondents Level of Tech Use

We were somewhat surprised to see just over half of the senior caregivers consider themselves to be avid users of digital technology, slightly more than the younger survey respondents.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, since tech users may have been more likely to respond to our online survey, but it is inconsistent with the widely held perception seniors and tech are not a good mix.

Then again, we have been saying for a while that perception is wrong.

Question 4: Respondents Role with Technology

As the chart below reflects, the senior caregiver survey respondents reflect a broad range of experience and roles with technology in their homes.

Just about half of those responding indicated they are the primary purchasers and implementers of technology in their own homes, as well as the troubleshooters, with a fair number indicating they have the same role in the homes of others.

The flip side is that about half of the respondents rely on someone else to take the lead on technology in their homes.

These responses tell us we have to keep in mind the full range of roles in our technology reporting.

Question 5: Areas of Concern with Technology

With 2 of 5 senior caregivers listing it, in line with respondents overall, data privacy is clearly the greatest technology concern. There is good reason for that, of course, but security concerns do not seem to have deterred them from using tech.

Interestingly, these caregivers are a third less likely to say technology costs too much than are younger respondents. They are also less than half as likely to feel tech is too complicated.

Given their responses, including the 1 in 4 who have no concerns, senior caregivers should be on the radar of tech companies.

This is not to ignore the data privacy issue, which we all share. We plan to respond to the survey feedback by providing more information on safe and secure use of digital technology.

Question 6: Respondents’ Technology Interest Areas

While senior caregivers expressed interest in learning more about the full range of technologies in the survey, their interests were clearly focused in the areas of smartphones and tablets, home health devices, and home security. These are the areas that are currently the most developed of the tech areas and provide readily-identifiable benefits to both senior caregivers and those for whom they care.

Given that senior caregivers express receptivity to using tech overall, it may be they will need only to see a demonstration of the benefits of other technologies for their interest to rise. We will continue reporting on these areas to give them a chance to decide for themselves.

Question 7: Respondents’ Learning Preferences

This question was very important to us in planning our future delivery of information on Senior Care Corner, as we want to present information in a way that is preferred by our audience and therefore most beneficial to them.

Senior caregivers expressed clear preferences for information communicated in written articles and video. According to these responses, our podcast was not the best way to reach this older group.

The senior caregivers’ preference for articles and videos is consistent with what younger respondents told us, while the seniors’ interest in podcasts and webinars was much lower.

What We Learned from Senior Caregivers

While we are keeping in mind the survey is not scientific, we can’t help but be excited about the responses from the senior caregivers.

Clearly there are many in this group who are both users of technology and interested in learning more. We plan on continuing to feed their interest with our tech coverage with practical insights that will provide benefits for both them and those for whom they care.

Also in mind is the reality there are likely other senior caregivers who did not respond and whose need to see technology’s benefits may be even greater. Hopefully we will get their feedback over time.

We hope the positive response to technology of senior caregivers is also being noticed by the tech companies, which will hopefully be further motivated to develop solutions to the problems of this group and demonstrate the benefits of those solutions.

Senior Care Corner looks forward to learning about those solutions and keeping you up to date!

Survey Results — Family Caregivers Provide Technology Insights

The results of our technology survey are complete.

That 474 of you who took the time to let us know what you think is truly appreciated!

We are going to spend some time digging into your responses in order to figure out just what we can learn and apply to the future of technology reporting at Senior Care Corner®.

In future articles we will discuss some of the detailed insights from the survey responses and how we’ll apply them. In the meantime, we want to present a summary of responses to each of our questions.

But first a little background discussion . . .

What the Survey Is — and Isn’t

Senior Care Corner has put a focus on technology for seniors and their family caregivers from the beginning. Of course, several years ago there was not nearly as much to cover as there is today.

As we have been reporting for some time, especially after covering CES® 2019, there is a great deal of technology in place and in the pipeline that can and will benefit older adults and their caregivers.

With so much technology available today and more on the way, we know we can’t fully cover all of it in the depth family caregivers need. The survey is our attempt to learn where we should focus our coverage to best meet your needs. We will let you know the specifics of what we learned.

We realize this survey is not a statistically valid sampling of family caregivers or even of those who visit Senior Care Corner. It is, though, an indication of the opinions of those in our audience who were kind enough to take the time to tell us what you think. That is important to us.

We also understand and will take into account that those who responded to the survey — and those who visit Senior Care Corner overall — are already, at a minimum, using the technology needed to connect to the web and may be more attuned to technology than other older adults and family caregivers.

Now onto the results of the survey.

Question 1: Age of Survey Respondents

Responses to the first survey question are consistent with our understanding of the Senior Care Corner audience based on comments and communications we’ve received over time.

While we are pleased to receive the confirmation, we were hoping to get more feedback from those who are younger in order to understand their needs as well. After all, there are already many younger family caregivers, many of whom may not see themselves as such, and a lot more who will at some point find themselves in that role, supporting parents, grandparents, and other loved ones.

 

Question 2: Caregiving Role of Respondents

This question is part of our effort to better understand the caregiving role, and thus the needs, of our audience. As expected, a large majority of respondents are caregivers to older adults.

Not lost on us are the responses of those who have older family members but don’t consider themselves caregivers. As we know and frequently discuss, those respondents might still be family caregivers without realizing they fill that role for a loved one. They may also have a role in the selection and implementation of technology solutions for senior loved ones.

We also appreciate that we have readers who are receiving care themselves and keep their needs in mind.

 

Question 3: Respondents Level of Tech Use

We weren’t sure what to expect in response to this question and were a little surprised that half of respondents said they are avid users of technology devices. Maybe we should not have been, since tech users may have been more likely to respond, though a significant share are already seniors.

This is consistent with research we have seen from others and our own anecdotal evidence indicating technology use by older adults is growing.

 

Question 4: Respondents Role with Technology

As the chart below reflects, respondents to the survey reflect a broad range of experience and roles with technology in their homes.

We find it interesting that half of the respondents to the survey have very significant roles with technology while a significant number are tech users but rely on others to set up and maintain it. We will continue to strive to meet the needs of both with our reporting.

 

Question 5: Areas of Concern with Technology

We find it interesting that, while respondents report a broad range of concerns with digital technology in their homes, one in four reported having no concerns.

Not surprisingly, the most commonly reported concern was data privacy, which has gotten a lot of discussion over the last year, with significant coverage of what companies such as Facebook and Google do with what they learn about us from our internet activities.

We hope tech companies take note that one in three respondents share concern about the cost of technology.

 

Question 6: Respondents Technology Interest Areas

We were pleased to learn respondents have interest in a broad range of technologies, though that will continue to challenge us in our coverage.

It is not surprising to see the greatest interest in the areas of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and home health devices, as we expect those to be areas providing the greatest benefit to independent-living seniors.

While there is clearly less interest right now in caregiving robots and digital companions, we will likely continue to follow those technology areas, which are still relatively immature and their benefits not yet well developed or publicized. We believe these technologies will take some of the load off family caregivers while improving life for seniors.

 

Question 7: Respondents Learning Preferences

This question was very important to us in planning our future delivery of information on Senior Care Corner.

It does not surprise us that almost two-thirds of our readers prefer their information via written articles and will continue to provide those.

Because half of respondents stated a preference for video delivery of information, we will be moving more in that direction in the future.

We have been evaluating the future of our podcast, so the interest expressed in podcasts by just one in five respondents is valuable to us in that evaluation.

 

Other Feedback We Received

It means a lot to us that 474 of you took the time to respond to our survey. That number is as meaningful to us as any of the survey responses themselves.

Still, not all of the valuable feedback we received was in the form of survey responses.

We received a number of comments, both directly and through social media, indicating there are some who do not see technology as being related to caring for seniors.

While we clearly disagree, we appreciate those comments, as they let us know there is still a need for basic communication of the roles technology can play in the lives of both seniors and their family caregivers.

It is comments such as those that help keep us grounded. We are, after all, not advocates of technology per se, but advocates for the family caregivers of senior loved ones. To the extent technology can help family caregivers make the lives of loved ones safer, healthier, and/or happier, we want to report on that technology.

It is for that reporting we conducted our technology survey and will learn from what you told us to improve our reporting for YOU, the family caregivers.

Could You Be Family Caregiver But Not Realize It?

Are you a family caregiver to a senior friend, neighbor, or loved one?

Many of you who are caregivers would answer that question “no,” not realizing you truly are.

It’s not a label of which one should be afraid or embarrassed to be given, but a reason to be proud.

You are one of the millions of Americans providing care — whether hands-on, ‘just’ helping, or while living a distance away — to loved ones, a group that contributes billions in services to the US economy with payment beyond knowing we are helping someone we love have a better life – – and a “thank you” now and then.

Most important, though, you are THE one for the loved one to whom you are providing care.

Importance of Knowing You’re a Caregiver

Why, you may ask, does it matter if you think of yourself as a family caregiver if you are filling that role for someone?

It really comes down to realizing the impact providing care can have on YOU.

Family caregivers often set aside their own needs while focused on the needs of those for whom they care. Those who don’t see themselves as family caregivers fail to recognize the need to care for their own needs as well as those of others.

While helping your loved one get to their doctor appointments, for example, you might ignore making one you need for yourself because there is not time to do it all.

While helping them get the good meals and rest they need to stay healthy, you might be overlooking those same needs of your own, endangering your own health and ability to provide them the level of care you want to provide.

We Care About the Caregivers, Too

We realize it is important to remind family caregivers to make time to care for themselves, which many simply do not do enough of the time. For some, it may mean reaching out to others for support, which is difficult for many of us to do.

First, though, family caregivers have to identify themselves as such.

Our effort to find creative ways to help more family caregivers realize they are filling that role and get the support they need led us to record the “You Might Be a Family Caregiver” feature film short YouTube video below, a respectful adaptation of Jeff Foxworthy’s signature routine.

The video is, we hope, a cute way to let you know there are many things you can do for senior loved ones that would make you a family caregiver. We know we’ve just scratched the surface so hope you’ll take a look at the video and let us know what additional items we might have listed.

We hope you’ll share the video with those you know who are family caregivers and may not realize it so they understand their needs are important too.

We hope you enjoy the video and find it insightful. We’re looking forward to your feedback!

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.