Technology adoption is increasing among seniors and there are no signs of slowing down: People 50 and older are using smartphones, wearable devices, voice-activated home assistants and other smart home technologies with about the same vigor as adults younger, according to a recent AARP report.
Three-quarters of this surveyed demographic indicates a desire to grow old. Helping them do this is a series of services and devices designed to support a healthier, safer, and more independent lifestyle.
Sherry Rose, executive director of the Thrive Center, says tools that may have seemed futuristic or elusive are increasingly becoming a way of life.
Rose and her team will know that: The Louisville-based nonprofit showcases the latest technology and provides education aimed at improving the quality of life and caring for the elderly.
Tech companies and established startups seek to thrive by showcasing their products, receiving feedback from seniors, and engaging with healthcare providers in search of innovative solutions. These past exchanges are now providing new value during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rose spoke with HealthTech about some of the home technologies and care models that are playing a bigger role in the lives of seniors this year and into the future.
1.Smart Technologies for Seniors Support Independent Living
From household appliances like induction cookers for the blind to refrigerators that allow users to see inside without opening the door (and set digital alerts for food expiration dates and order food for delivery), smart home devices offer flexibility and freedom for the elderly.
“These types of technologies can help a person live at home,” Rose says.
On a simpler and more cost-effective level, voice assistants can lend a helping hand for a variety of tasks. The user can ask a smart speaker, paired with other devices in the home, to set a thermostat, call a family member, or find out who is outside through the camera at the front door.
Other tools may use light and range sensing technology (lidar) to recognize movement in the home using a laser scan if the resident does not have a portable device or does not want to use a device, which is common for people with dementia. Likewise, sensors using artificial intelligence can monitor changes in a person’s gait and speed; Detected changes in movement patterns can alert caregivers to the possibility of falls.
2.Wearables Collect Vital Health Data from Older Adults
In addition to typical smart watches and consumer wearable devices such as Apple Watch and Fitbit, among others, a growing number of personal medical devices are helping older adults collect vital signs, capture that data, transmit it, and analyze it through dashboards to clinical review.
These include Wi-Fi pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors that provide accurate medical measurements and immediate feedback.
More from HEALTHTECH: How COVID-19 Accelerated Digital Transformation in Healthcare.
Some smart hearing aids now have Bluetooth technology and offer remote hearing testing capabilities; Companion apps can provide speech therapy designed to preserve and strengthen the user’s hearing.
Rose says wearable devices have gained prominence since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expanded reimbursement for remote patient monitoring in 2019.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, meanwhile, tools that help reduce reintroductions have more value. “Chronic heart failure and other comorbidities can be controlled remotely and help the elderly avoid exposure to the virus and keep them safe and healthy at home,” says Rose.
Some tools can detect if something is wrong.
“Smart tablets designed for the elderly, household data collected from portable devices. When you play a game of solitaire on your tablet, you get an alert that you need to walk or take your heart medication,” says Rose, also noting that Some wearable devices are using Geolocation Technologies and Global Positioning System (GPS) with two-way communication to alert caregivers if a person with dementia drifts away.