- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
- Published: 27 December 2018
Thriving in place with smart technology
The United States is a graying nation. With it has come a new conversation about aging, namely, the difference between simply getting older versus thriving as you age.
Important work related to the research and development of technologies to help elders thrive in place is taking place worldwide. Falls are a leading cause of injury-related death among older adults and a major reason why many elders become unable to live independently. In response, the University of Maine’s Center on Aging is working to develop clothing that would provide hip protection to help prevent a fracture upon a fall. The University is also working to develop a device to be mounted on an individual’s glasses to help detect edges, such as stairs, curbs, or benches, which could create falling hazards.
Aging in place with smart technology in the home
“Smart” technology can enhance the livability of one’s home too. For example, motion-sensor lighting is not only convenient, but can prevent falls when walking into a room. If you forget to lock the door, your home can remind you and even take care of it for you. With one touch or voice control, you can control just about everything in the home. As you age, your connected smart home can help you continue to live independently, safely, and comfortably.
Health-monitoring and tracking smart devices
Devices that monitor and track your health are becoming more popular among all age populations. Telemedicine and Telehealth capabilities and communications are particularly valuable in rural communities and enable long-distance patient and clinician contact and care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, and monitoring. Health data can be collected through wearable technologies like smartwatches and relayed to your care providers. Activity sensors through the house monitor loved ones who are living unassisted at home. These sensors can be placed in discreet locations: doors, cabinets, windows, beds, etc., to track movement around the house and report back to a caregiver or a loved one.
“Smart” pill counters alert and properly dispense medications for you. Stovetop technologies will turn the stove off if left unattended for a predetermined amount of time. “Smart” doors that don't require fumbling with a handle – and in some cases, don't swing out, but slide side to side – can assist elders who struggle to get around. “Smart” doorbells help ensure one’s safety at home by allowing a homeowner to see, hear, and speak to someone at their door without having to open it.
Smart technology for inviduals with dementia
Of note is the positive effect technology is having on improving the quality of life and easing safety concerns for individuals with dementia. Assistive technology is also impactful in lifting some of the responsibilities and anxieties experienced by caregivers.
Recorded reminder messages can prompt a person not to open the door or to go back to bed. Those who may confuse day and night can experience altered sleep patterns, which may be disruptive to the household. Clocks designed specifically for those with dementia can hold set routines. GPS tracking and location devices can significantly increase the safety of individuals who may wander. These systems, which can be attached to the person or may be built into clothing or shoes, will alert a caregiver if their loved one has left the home. These tracking devices can also provide emergency personnel with the location of an individual to ensure a timely and safe recovery. For those who cannot remember or identify phone numbers, picture phones with clear buttons where photos can be placed enable the person to simply press the button to quickly call their loved one or first responders.
Music technology through the use of ipods or mp3 players can have a marked impact on quality of life. According to Peter Acker, director of The Alzheimer's Music Project, “Research has shown that familiar and beloved music helps to calm chaotic brain activity in people with Alzheimer’s and they’re more able to focus on the present moment and regain a sense of his/her connection to others. We work with families and caregivers in Massachusetts to create music playlists that are ‘tailored’ for each person – enabling those struggling with cognitive challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories.”
While no cure exists yet for Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias, emerging technologies can alleviate anxieties, help establish routines, and offer vehicles for sustaining joyful relationships as well as enable dignity and independence. These investments, and others like them, can transform the aging in place experience. In this season of giving, consider introducing some of these remarkable technologies to a loved one aging in their home. For more information, contact us.