Technology is central to 21st century life in America. It’s also becoming surprisingly popular among senior populations as tech companies target this growing market demographic. By 2030, AARP projects that close to 132 million Americans aged 50 or more will spend more than $84 billion annually on technology products. Today, 91 percent of people aged 50 or more are computer competent, and 94 percent speak positively about technology, saying that it allows them to connect with family and friends. Even smartphone use in older Americans is up to 80 percent and growing. Even if seniors aren’t using all the new technology available today, many parents and grandparents are still spending considerable amounts of money on tech-focused gifts for children and grandchildren. If it is making a difference in their livelihood, people aged 70 or more are still interested in working with it.
A Cambria Health survey recently found that an estimated 100 million people (45 percent of the US population) act as a caregiver for a loved one. Approximately 64 percent of these unpaid caregivers are using digital tools to help them provide adequate care. Technology applications are already used extensively in the paid caregiver world. Some of the most common applications used for care-giving include virtual medicine and health trackers worn as digital watches, home automation, motion-sensing devices, medication reminders, GPS devices, emergency response systems, and more.
The Future of Aging In Place Technology
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is held every January in Las Vegas, NV and it showcases more than 4,400 companies from all sectors within the technology industry. With more than 170,000 attendees and people from 160 countries, the biggest names in technology come ready to show off their latest advancements. While these are specific to proprietary development companies, there is an expectation, as technology takes off, that other tech companies will follow suit and further the development of some of the best ideas. Some of these digital tools are available to the public, while others are not. Regardless, the market for senior technology tools and their associated applications is booming and it’s only a matter of time before most of these tools undergo intensive development for public consumption.
The Newest Senior Care Technology Tools
CarePLUS, this tool is not yet available on the open market. Discreet cameras are placed throughout the household and are used to detect not only motion but the postures of loved ones. With the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI), the system is capable of releasing real-time warning messages in moments of danger. The AI in this tool can detect hazards such as falling, sitting for too long, remaining in the bathroom for too long, leaving the home at a weird time, skipping medications, and more. This system reduces the need for multiple individual digital tools by combining many monitoring aspects into one technology product.
Essence Group Fall Detector Radar. This tool is made exclusively as a multi-sensor fall detection system. It uses Texas Instrument radar technology and AI to get the job done. This product is not yet available, however, the application programming interface (API) works with Essence’s Care@Home™ monitoring platform for seniors. The radar technology tracks a person’s position in their home and provides immediate detection of a fall, alerting healthcare providers.
HeardThat™ is perfect for senior adults who are struggling with hearing as they age. This tool is capable of turning a smartphone into a hearing assistant by tuning out background noise. With the use of AI, this technology enables individuals who have hearing loss to hear speech clearly and allowing them to more fully engage in conversation. The “de-noised” environment will also work with Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids and other listening devices, such as earphones. The tool is not yet available for public consumption. However, an invitation to become involved in the beta testing program and information about a release date is available on their website.
HomeFit AR™ is an augmented reality application exclusive to AARP Innovation Labs. This technology enables users to scan a room, discovering what improvements can be made to improve the safety environment for seniors who choose to age in place. Appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves, commonly used spaces like sinks and stairs, are identified for specific fixes needed to make a home safer and more comfortable for senior living. While the HomeFit AR Guide is still in beta version (part of a software release cycle), the public release date is currently slated for the year 2020.
Houndify™ is a “speech to meaning” engine that can interpret language with unprecedented accuracy and speed. Voice-enabled AI is used to add integrated voice and conversational intelligence into your digital products. What’s amazing here is that this independent platform is continuously learning, getting better everyday. Deep Meaning Understanding™ technology allows a user to ask multiple questions and get the filtered results all at once. As the platform is non-brand specific, it can work with your existing device. Pretty cool!
Kytera Companion™ is a smart remote caregiver solution. It can provide insight into the activity of aging at-home seniors. This home system solution includes data collection, a mobile app for loved ones, and a dashboard for professional caregivers. This product can detect both hard and soft falls using a wristband, location sensors, a base unit, and an internet-connected dashboard. Soft falls are the most common type of fall among the elderly and this is the first technology that can assess such a fall with surprising accuracy. With the help of AI, the system provides comprehensive monitoring that can detect physical and mental deterioration, and be predictive as to evolving disease conditions like depression, dementia, and UTI all based on behavioral symptoms.
MedWand™ was created by physicians and medical device engineers and made to help fulfill the potential of telemedicine. This handheld device looks like a wand and incorporates multiple diagnostic tools in one. Clinicians are able to conduct remote office visits in real-time and collect key patient assessments along the way.
Orcam MyEye 2 is a great tool designed for the visually impaired. This advanced wearable assistive technology helps to provide independence by audibly conveying visual information. It can read a text, recognize faces, identify products, and more by simply clipping the device onto your glasses. For the hearing impaired, OrCam Hear is another wearable assistive technology device that uses artificial intelligence, combining lip reading with simultaneous voice separation for better listening. The wireless hearing aid is worn as a necklace, allowing for hands-free operation and clear voice reception, even in the crowd.
PECOLA, a companion robot, is in development by Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). It incorporates ambient intelligence for the elderly through the collection and analysis of the user’s life and physiological data. It is capable of detecting abnormal behaviors, which allows for preventative rather than responsive healthcare. By following the senior around their home, PECOLA can identify emotions as well as perform video-generated diet analysis and fall detection. It is also there to conduct sleep assessments through breathing and heart rate readings. The daily reports are automatically generated and provided to the user’s caregiver for convenience.
Zibrio SmartScale is not yet available to purchase, but it is available for pre-order. This tool enables a home user to measure and track their balance with a safe and simple 60-second test. The test and scale assesses balance and provides a score of 1-10; the lower the score, the higher the risk for falls. This scale also provides personalized insight into lifestyle factors that affect your balance.
Other new senior living products worth mentioning are available for review at these websites:
Technology is not only here to stay. It is innovating among the senior population, working to address older adult care needs and provide new ways for seniors to age in place successfully. With a growing aging population, these tools will become more necessary to ensure everyone gets the care they need and deserve. Consult with your healthcare providers as to what systems they employ for their senior patients, such as the use of telemedicine and at-home monitoring. Consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure your rights are still protected as you or your loved ones continue to age in place. If you are caring for a loved one, consult with the elder law attorneys at Michaelson & Associates to see how we can help to ensure that the proper legal documents are in place for you and your loved one.