Aging at home technology has rapidly evolved, with elderly monitoring devices, in particular, providing numerous benefits to both seniors and caregivers alike.
On that note, we will discuss the growth and transformative power of technology for elderly citizens, as well as what each of us can do to ensure that our loved ones receive the attention and care they need.
The fact of the matter is that, while there is a plethora of gadgets for seniors who want to remain independent, there is more to do in terms of accessibility. If the people who would benefit from this groundbreaking technology are not comfortable utilizing it, we need to look at what we are missing — either as developers or caregivers.
There is a lot to improve to bridge the gap between technology and older adults, and we will discuss this topic further in the article.
Why Do We Need to Further Develop Aging at Home Technology?
The world’s aging population has been steadily increasing since the 1970s, particularly in developing countries. While this is a “success story for public health policies, social and economic development” (according to WHO), it also comes with many challenges such as:
- Pressure on public funds;
- Difficulty in ensuring adequate pensions;
- Creating jobs for aging citizens;
- Lack of healthcare professionals.
On an individual level, elderly people may face additional pressure to work beyond retirement in order to support themselves — all while preserving their health and well-being as much as possible. Furthermore, caregivers may become ‘sandwiched’ between raising their young children and taking care of their elderly parents.
These are a few of the reasons why technology may play a key role in providing elderly citizens with a sense of autonomy and independence in their desired aging-in-place lifestyle. At the same time, technology like home monitoring systems can alleviate some of the strain on caregivers, whether they are gerontology professionals or family members.
From Intrusive ‘Granny Cams’ to Discreet Elderly Monitoring Devices
There is an increasing demand for elderly monitoring devices to prevent household accidents because, sadly, older people are significantly more prone to fatal accidents like falls or choking.
The earliest home alarm system was developed in Germany in the early 1970s, and it was quickly followed by a similar invention in 1975 in the US. These were the first PERS (Personal Emergency Response Systems) or medical alerts, and they required a call center connection. In the event of an emergency, the staff would pick up a preprogrammed message and notify the authorities.
PERS have evolved in different ways like gathering more data on the user to better assess their activity. In addition, the software can be integrated into other gadgets that seniors may already use nowadays (such as watches or hearing aids).
Wall-mounted AI-based devices, such as CareAlert, are the latest and most convenient of eldercare gadgets for several reasons.
For one, seniors don’t need to face the stigma associated with wearing a helping device.
They are also a superior and more ethical alternative to cameras. Why? Because they only use sensors to detect and evaluate movement and ambient data rather than record audio-video materials.
Additionally, the information is immediately transmitted to the caregiver’s smartphone via a connected senior monitoring app, so there is no need to rely on the availability of a third party outside the family circle.
A complete list of these and other popular gadgets for seniors who want to remain independent may be seen in our previous post. You will also discover advice on how to select the best device for your parents.
It is essential to remember that they do not replace, but rather complement, human care.
How to Overcome the Digital Divide. Inclusion and Active Aging
In order for technology to be effective, we need to make sure it reaches its intended audience. We know that, in this case, not all seniors use technology or are comfortable with it. While this may seem like an unfair stereotype, we can’t pretend there isn’t some truth to it.
According to current research, one-third of U.S. adults aged 65 and older have never used the internet. Moreover, among this demographic, older people of color are less likely to use technology for health-related purposes.
There are multiple causes for this: inequity in education, poverty, discrimination, and generational status — which refers to the place of birth of an individual or an individual’s parents. Simply put, not everyone has access to information and technology, and hence cannot enjoy the benefits that many of us take for granted.
What Can Developers Do?
The digital divide is real, but there are solutions to bridge the gap between technology and the older population.
It starts with product developers (like us) who identify strategies and come up with well-designed, accessible products, that instill confidence in older adults and encourage them to use innovative aging at home technology. We must also provide assistance to them and their caretakers along the way.
The research paper referenced above also suggests that allowing elderly citizens and gerontologists to participate in the development stages can have a positive impact, giving engineers and developers the chance to learn about the needs and pain points of the beneficiaries and work in a more effective way.
This is essential when it comes to the transformative power of aging at home technology.
In fact, this is how our mission at CareAlert began: to help a loved one in our family when we couldn’t be there in person. By trying different strategies to monitor their wellbeing (such as frequent phone calls, visits, and installing cameras), the idea for CareAlert began to sprout. Based on their feedback, we devised a discreet senior monitoring system, coupled with an elderly monitoring app. This device — which we are continuously improving — provided our family member with enough comfort and security, while also ensuring our peace of mind.
In the end, bridging the digital divide requires a mental shift. It begins with not viewing older people as incapable of using technology, but rather as a heterogeneous population with diverse backgrounds, needs, and values. Respect and empathy can go a long way.
What Can Caregivers Do?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines ‘active aging’ as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people age.”
Society, in general, and caregivers in particular, should encourage our seniors’ participation in cultural, social, civic, and economic activities, according to their desires and abilities. At the same time, we are responsible for providing them with security and assistance as needed.
For example, a senior monitoring system can complement your efforts in ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for your parents while they go about their daily activities.
Fundamentally, using technology for elderly people doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply engaging with your parents online through video, if you are a long-distance caregiver, can be a good start. It will help your parents keep their social needs fulfilled and avoid loneliness.
We can’t solve all problems such as educational inequity or creating job opportunities. However, each of us can have a positive impact by helping our own elderly loved ones get accustomed to the technology around them.
Finally, sparking conversations in our communities and disseminating educational resources can also make a tremendous difference with long-term results.
What Does the Future Hold for Aging at Home Technology?
It’s highly likely that, in the future, robotic technology will aid in eldercare. For instance, assistive robots will be able to help older people with daily activities like bathing, dressing, eating, communicating, and even companionship.
If the prospect of having a robot companion makes you nervous, do not fret — there is still much to study concerning the interaction between people and robots.
So far, some studies show that social robots, in particular, can have a positive impact on the quality of life — decreasing anxiety, agitation, and loneliness. Additionally, another study that looked at the interaction between dementia patients and a therapeutic robot showed that the robot improved their mood and engagement level.
When we come to that point in the future, a helping (robotic) hand will be welcome in busy clinical environments like assisted living facilities, where it can be difficult to offer each and every resident the same amount of attention.
Until then — and, most likely, in parallel with other future inventions — Artificial Intelligence devices like CareAlert’s monitoring app will continue to develop and support active aging in new ways.
Working Together in Developing Better Technology for Elderly People
In order to move forward successfully and build life-changing aging at home technology that is both accessible and empowering, we need to work together. Engineers, seniors, caregivers, developers, gerontologists, and other elder care professionals should gather around to exchange their experience and know-how.
If you want to learn more about CareAlert and its multiple applications, feel free to browse our product page and see what works best for you. If you already use CareAlert for your parents or grandparents, we would be happy to hear your feedback to help us make this product even better. Contact us at email@example.com for any information or inquiry.