Senior Age Tech
Older adults were hit the hardest during the first stage of the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the pandemic, seniors were afraid to leave home and family members did not want to risk spreading the coronavirus disease when visiting their elderly loved ones.
So, seniors stayed connected through telephone calls or virtual visits on laptops and smartphones. Some family caregivers installed digital devices that allowed them to remotely monitor aging parents who lived in their own homes. Even senior living communities beefed up their use of digital devices to help residents.
Now, some senior living providers are taking a closer look at their technology budget and considering an infrastructure upgrade. Internet access was once seen as an amenity, but now it’s the same as a utility, said Dusanka Delovska-Trajkova, chief information officer for the Maryland-based Ingleside Life Plan communities.
“It’s the same as electricity or water,” Delovska-Trajkova said during a virtual event series on technology. “That changed in the last few years, and it definitely changed with the pandemic.”
The COVID-19 pandemic helped to further the goal of tech companies to develop smart devices—or upgrade existing devices—for seniors who want to age in place in their own home or in a senior living community. Assistive technology has a wide range of capabilities—from automatically turning on lights in a room to detecting and preventing falls that can lead to serious injuries.
In the long term, digital technology can have a positive effect on the health of seniors, according to Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine. Dzau believes that technology, along with improved analytics, and a better understanding of human behavior and the biology of aging, can shift the focus from treating disease to prevention and health promotion.
Technology Solutions for Seniors Across the Globe
Developing assistive technology for seniors comes at a time when the population of people aged 65 years and older is expected to increase significantly around the world. For instance, the population of people 65 and over in the European Union (EU) is expected to rise from 90.5 million at the beginning of 2019 to 129.8 million by 2050.
As result, companies in the EU are already providing technological and social solutions to help seniors live quality lives and stay connected with their families and friends. Some of the tech companies and social projects include:
- Colette—a French social impact startup that matches students and young workers with seniors who have a spare room in their home.
- CareClever—a multinational company that created Cutii, a companion care robot for homebound seniors.
- No Isolation—a company that developed KOMP, an easy to use, one-button computer for seniors who don’t know much about technology. Through KOMP, seniors can make video calls, and share photos and messages with their family and friends.
- Alphonse—an online platform launched by two young French engineers that promote social interaction between seniors and young people. Seniors get paid to share their knowledge with young people wanting to learn such skills as cooking, gardening, mechanics, DIY projects, and babysitting.
- Entoureo—a French startup that helps families create a box of memories with their elder family members. The box contains equipment for families to record their conversations. The package also comes with thematic interview guides.
Newly developed devices and platforms are also beneficial to family caregivers who find it difficult to work, take care of their own families, and care for their elderly relatives.
Hemanshu Jain, an engineer and serial tech entrepreneur in India, said it was hard for him to look after his father during the COVID-19 pandemic when he had to travel out of town for work.
So, in mid-2020, Jain co-founded Khyaal (which means ‘care’ in Hindi), a subscription-based service that helps families remotely manage care for their elderly family members.
Khyaal offers services in six care categories: emotional, essentials, nutritional, digital literacy, insurance, and medical. Seniors are assigned a caregiver who calls them on a regular basis. Subscribers can also attend online community events and learning sessions, order groceries, and medication, and consult with medical professionals and nutritionists, among other things.
U.S. Groups Also Developing Technology For Seniors
According to the U.S. Census, the population of people 65 years old and older is the fasting growing age group in the country. And, according to AARP, 87 percent of that population wants to stay in their current homes and community, as they age.
As a way to help older adults with their goals, AARP has an Innovation Lab that furthers the growth of startups that create tech to help seniors age in place. For example, Mighty Health is an application (app) that pairs seniors with health coaches certified trainers, and provides personalized nutrition plans backed by cardiologists.
Other projects in AARP’s lab include:
- FallCall Detect. The fall detection and personal emergency response system can tell the difference between high-impact falls and low-impact falls. If a high-impact fall is detected, FallCall’s medical monitoring service is automatically contacted. The system was designed for the Apple Watch, but “FallCall Lite” is also available for iPhone and Android devices.
- Lanacare. This device helps family caregivers coordinate help and post updates. For instance, a caregiver can let others know if they need transportation, or someone to run errands, or child or pet care, and other types of support.
- Folia Health. Patients and caregivers can use this app and website to monitor and record the progress of treatments for people with chronic health conditions.
Another start-up in AARP’s Innovation Lab is Cake, a company that created an online platform that allows users to make advance care decisions and end-of-life planning.
The expansion of assistive technology means more older adults are entering the digital world, whether they live independently or in a senior living community.
Cypress Living, a senior living community in Fort Myers, Florida, is in the middle of a Wi-Fi expansion project, said Joe Velderman, vice president of innovation at Cypress Living, whose parents are already into smart technology.
Velderman said should his parents want to move into a residential community like Cypress Living in the future, “they’re going to be disappointed” if smart technology is not available.
“It’s important to look 10 years ahead at what some of our future residents are going to have as an expectation,” he said.