The majority of elderly individuals want to stay in their homes as they age. It can be difficult for adult children to feel comfortable with their parents living alone and the possibility of their becoming injured or falling ill unnoticed. There are many types of technology that can assist elderly individuals to remain safe in their own homes throughout the aging process.
According to the Journal of Aging and Health, gerontechnology, a combination of gerontology and technology, is a rapidly expanding field dedicated to the development of technological devices to meet the needs of the aging population1. Technology can play many roles in the life of an elderly individual, including enhancing functional capacity, gathering resources, and reducing environmental challenges1. Because of its usefulness in everyday life, technology can be seen as a tool to improve the independence of older adults.
There are several help buttons currently on the market, several of which you have probably heard of before. One of the most commonly known help buttons is Life Alert. Elderly individuals can use the help button to call for help from emergency respondents. Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert is another help button currently available. Elderly individuals can also use this button to call for help from emergency respondents, along with automatic sensors which can detect a fall and immediately call for help.
Phones & Computers
In order to stay connected with family members and healthcare professionals, simplified telephone and computer systems can be used. It can be difficult for elderly individuals to understand the complicated setup and use of phones and computers. Simplified and magnified versions of each type of technology can make the process of staying connected easier for the elderly.
According to the Journal of Aging and Health, the use of mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets can promote preventive health practices, remote education for dietary practices and physical activity, provide navigational maps and instructions to facilitate walking, medical reminders, and calls for help in emergency situations1.
If your elderly loved one has difficulty remembering the appropriate times to take medications, or which medications to take, there are several devices available. Reminder Rosie is one of these devices. Rosie is a talking clock which can remind the elderly to take medications, along with giving other reminders. MedMinder is another device, helpful for those who don’t know which medications to take at which times. MedMinder is a digital pill dispenser which can be filled by a caregiver or family member to dispense the correct medications at the correct time.
For some elderly individuals, it is necessary to keep track of health information such as heart rate. There are an increasing number of activity monitors which allow for real-time health information to be collected and sent to a healthcare professional.
Many of these activity monitors can also give off a GPS location, in order for those with dementia or wandering to easily be found should they become lost. This can also allow family members and healthcare professionals to view the amount of activity or inactivity the elderly individual has had in each day.
Activity monitors which show the number of steps or distance a senior has walked can also encourage the individual to be aware of and increase their daily activity levels if necessary. This device allows for an objective measurement of daily movements and aerobic activity, which allows for more accuracy than an approximation by an individual2.
There are many new technologies on the market which allow you to track your loved one’s movement throughout their house. One of these products is the GrandCare System. This system involves a network of wireless sensors which track motion, contact, and pressure and can alert you if there has been a fall or if your loved one has be inactive for extended periods of time. This system also incorporates a wide range of wireless health and wellness devices which can send real-time health information to healthcare professionals.
No matter the worry that comes with your elderly parents living alone, there is a form of technology that can help. These are just a few of the many products on the market designed to allow for safe and comfortable aging in place. Installing technology within the home or providing mobile devices can increase the sense of safety and security while aging in place comfortably.
1Satariano, W., Scharlach, A., & Lindeman, D. (2014). Aging, place, and technology: Toward improving access and wellness in older populations. Journal of Aging and Health, 26(8), 1373-1389.
2Baily, C., Foran, T., Ni Scanaill, C., & Dromey, B. (2011). Older adults, falls and technologies for independent living: A life space approach. Ageing and Society, 31(5), 829-848.