Heraclitus, the pre-Socractic Greek philosopher, said, “Change is the only constant in life.” In the field of technology, this is particularly true. And while one can argue that not all change is positive, the constant evolution of technology has provided us with a myriad of products that make our lives easier.
Laurie Orlov is a tech industry veteran, writer, speaker, elder care advocate, and founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch, a market research company that provides thought leadership, analysis and guidance about technologies and services that enable boomers and seniors to remain longer in their home of choice.
Orlov’s primary focus is working with businesses, nonprofits, technology vendors, and service providers to help them identify opportunities to utilize technology to benefit seniors. According to Orlov, there is an emerging niche within the tech industry to develop solutions to help seniors stay at home safely and in communication with family, friends and those who provide services for them. Orlov identifies three key technology prerequisites to help seniors stay in their homes longer:
- Home alarm system. Having a home alarm system that notifies police in case of a fire or flood is a good safety measure. A personal emergency pendant that is connect to a call center so that emergency personnel can respond if help is needed is a good alternative.
- High speed internet. High speed internet helps people connect with each other and delivers news and access to the wider world. Alternatively, having a cell phone or smart phone can provide similar benefits.
- Social technology. Connecting via social technology, whether it be through one of the social networking sites, email, or other similar technologies, provides a way to connect with family who may not live close by, to share photos, and to potentially reduce feelings of loneliness. Social technology can also play an important role when there is a natural disaster and emergency information needs to be widely communicated.
Another form of technology that is discussed in the elder care industry is sensors that can be placed around the home to help monitor the activity of an older person. While Orlov can see some benefit to this type of use, she sees greater benefit from sensors when they are used to provide information on a few key activities of daily living.
For example, a sensor might be attached to a refrigerator to provide feedback on whether the senior is accessing the refrigerator daily, and if so, how often. This type of feedback could be helpful in determining if a senior is eating regularly and maintaining a healthy diet. Another use for sensors would be on a toilet. Sensors on toilets could provide feedback about frequent or infrequent urination, potentially altering family to a UTI or to dehydration issues.
A newer technology that Orlov refers to as “delighters” are smart speakers – voice-activated speakers with on-board digital assistants like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. Beyond being able to do things like play music, read a book or answer questions, these devices can turn on lights, control thermostats, and in the case of Amazon’s Echo, call others with the same device.
The possibilities of pairing technology with the home care industry are truly endless, offering great opportunities to assist an industry and a large segment of the population. As technology continues to evolve, and as the senior population continues to expand, there is no doubt that technology will play a larger and more prominent role in providing seniors with the ability to remain safely in their homes.
The Help Choose Home podcast series provides information and resources to help those with a care need learn more about home care options. Podcasts are hosted by Merrily Orsini, president and CEO of corecubed, marketing for home care experts dedicated exclusively to helping aging care providers grow their business.
Help Choose Home is a collaborative effort by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), Axxess, and corecubedto educate the public about the many benefits of the in-home care industry, which includes non-medical home care, private duty nursing care, medical home health, hospice, and other in-home health and wellness services.