5 Innovations from #CES2017 That Will be Life Changers for Older Adults

CES® brings together the world of innovation each year, a combination of technologies available now and ideas for the future.

It has been that way for 50 years now, growing still bigger each year.

Gone are the days when CES was seen as having little of relevance to older adults or their family caregivers.

Not only are seniors using and becoming dependent on many of the same devices and solutions as those who are younger, but the technology industry has awoken to the market that is older adults and the needs to be met.

Innovations introduced at CES over the years have been life changers for all of us and that is still true. There are five we have identified, though, we feel will meaningfully change the way seniors live their elder years, particularly those who choose to age in place.

Life Changing Innovation

There are many innovations on display at CES 2017 that can be adopted by older adults along with those of all ages. The newest TVs, smart appliances, smartphones, wearables and so much more are improving aspects of our lives today and will continue to do so as they evolve.

In these five areas, we see innovations at this year’s CES making seniors’ lives better and improving their chances of aging successfully.

  1. Monitoring of vital signs via unobtrusive, on the skin data collectors
  2. Camera-less in home activity and security monitoring
  3. Virtual reality
  4. Personal assistant robots
  5. Autonomous vehicles

These are not all available now, at least for the application to senior living that we envision when we see them, or at least marketed for the uses we see. It is likely only a matter of time, though.

We are not going to name companies or brands in this discussion, though there are several worthy of being included. In some cases there are multiple companies with products we see providing the benefits we describe. For others, the benefits and features we discuss combine the offerings of multiple firms, though those combinations may not yet exist (“yet” being the operative word).

(1) On-Skin Vital Signs Monitoring

Healthcare monitoring is one of the factors that limits the ability of many seniors to live independently. The need to know the status of vital signs on an ongoing basis can impose a limitation to live more conveniently to care professionals.

We have watched at CES with great interest as a number of firms have introduced devices to measure vital signs and communicate data to healthcare providers via apps in seniors’ and their caregivers’ smartphones and tablets.

That is of value, but still may not provide the level of convenience and ease of use that will make it practical for many older adults who wish to live independently.

The next evolution in vital signs monitoring uses monitors that look like tattoos, attached to the skin and nearly invisible. The monitoring of the body is done automatically, without the need for action by the senior, with results transmitted to a senior’s mobile device. From there, instructions may be provided to the wearer of the monitor or transmitted to family caregivers or healthcare providers, as set up in the app.

(2) Camera-Less Home Monitoring

Concern for health and safety is one reason many older adults are not able to achieve their desire to continue living on their own. Family members fear something will happen and their senior loved ones will be unable to reach out for help, thus their need will go undetected.

In-home monitoring systems with cameras have been seen as one way to continue independent living. Family caregivers or designated professionals would be able to view inside a senior’s home when there is cause for concern. Many seniors, understandably, express resistance to those cameras as intrusions into their lives, destroying their sense of living independently.

An innovation at CES appears to be a solution that provides for home monitoring for seniors’ safety without the same level of intrusion in their lives and privacy. It is something we found being touted for home security but seems to be a great solution for independent living.

With this technology, the home is monitored through the use of wireless signals. When the signal is disrupted it is interpreted as an intrusion in the home. In a senior’s home, a lack of disruption could be interpreted as grandma never leaving her bedroom for a few days or dad not going into the kitchen to have a meal.

There appears to be many uses and interpretations of the activity or lack of activity ‘read’ from the wireless signals in the home. While some may see this as still intruding in the lives of older adults, it might just be the type of compromise that lets them feel comfortable living independently with much privacy intact while family caregivers can be confident critical incidents will be detected in time to respond.

(3) Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is computer generated simulation that allows interaction by users in a seemingly physical way with their computer generated surroundings. While there has been much talk and some VR systems released, it is not yet in broad practical use and most important applications are far from ready for prime time.

We see two areas of application that will be important for seniors who are aging in place.

  • Interact with distant family caregivers and other loved ones as if in the same room, allowing all to maintain closeness despite distance, and prevent loneliness and depression in the older adults.
  • Visit the doctor’s office without having to leave home. VR complements home health technology by allowing healthcare providers to learn what they need about their patients without getting them into the office and patients to feel like they are with the providers without the need to travel.

For this to happen, virtual reality systems have to become commonplace. Integration of VR with mobile devices, something we are already starting to see, appears to be a way to get VR into seniors’ homes. Then it is a matter of developing the necessary simulations and introducing older adults to this innovation and its benefits to their lives.

(4) Personal Assistant Robots

No, we are not talking about something like Rosie from The Jetsons, though even that concept of assistant no longer seems farfetched. Many aspects of the personal assistants we are talking about are available today, with others extensions of what can be found now.

Many of us already have robots in our homes (or via our smartphones) that can execute our voice commands to shop, find music, send messages, and perform many other functions. We have barely scratched the surface regarding the tasks they will be able to perform for us. There are also devices to provide telepresence to remotely interact with or monitor seniors in their own homes.

However, there were actual robots at CES that provide personal assistant services in the home. We are not just talking about a device sitting on a table but one that can freely move about the home, either with our senior loved one or to perform directed tasks.

Not only will robots be able to perform tasks for older adults, but they will also provide valuable health and safety functions, such as alerting designated family or first responders if the senior becomes unresponsive.

We can imagine a number of functions robots will be able to perform to allow older adults to age in place longer, with lives that are healthier, safer, and more comfortable. It will be interesting to see how the physical capabilities or home robots develop over time. The leaps from year to year have been so great, we can’t wait to see what CES 2018 has to offer in this area.

(5) Autonomous Vehicles

Some are starting to call CES the world’s largest and most important car show – – and it is easy to see why. Vehicles and their components are becoming a bigger part of CES each year, both from a exhibition floor space perspective and the innovation on display. Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles are an important part of that.

Autonomous vehicles will be important to society as a whole, but maybe nowhere more significant than to aging in place seniors. The ability to go shopping, visit friends or family, or drive to the doctor’s office without having to rely on others for transportation is an important part of independence. Unfortunately, age-related changes rob many seniors of the ability to be mobile without reliance on others.

It is likely to be some time before self-driving cars are a viable option for our senior loved ones. When they are, though, there will be benefits for both seniors and their family caregivers, as the independent mobility of seniors will free up family caregivers to perform other tasks or even care for their own needs.

Anxiously Watching and Waiting

We are impatient when it comes to meeting the needs of our loved ones and their family caregivers. While we are confident these innovations are going to be viable aging in place options, now is hardly soon enough.

That makes waiting and anticipation both exciting and difficult.

Keep looking to us at Senior Care Corner® for technology insights and recommendation as well as news to keep you informed on other aspects of family caregiving.

What can family caregivers do in the meantime? Help seniors prepare for the technology to come if they are not already. Help them get and use smartphones, tablets, and other devices that can both provide benefits today and develop comfort for the innovations that will change their lives in the future.

Because we care about them!