Senior Age Tech
As the older adult population continues to grow worldwide, companies are developing new technology or making existing devices smarter to improve the quality of life for seniors.
Currently, adults 65 years old and over account for more than one-fifth of the population in 17 countries, according to the United Nations’ World Population Ageing 2019 report. What’s more, the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division projections indicate that the trend will continue for 155 countries to the end of the century, when older adults will make up 61 percent of the world’s population by the year 2100.
The increase in the senior population is expected to place demands on government agencies, families, and caregivers to ensure that older adults are living securely in their own homes, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes.
In response to the demand, tech companies continue to develop tools to support seniors, their families, and caregivers. For instance, Starkey, a company that provides advanced hearing solutions, built 3D sensors into its Livio AI hearing aids that can detect when the wearer falls down. The device sends an alert message to a caregiver or predetermined family member or friend.
Virtual Caregiver Training
With more seniors choosing to age in place, caregivers will be in demand. With assistive technologies, however, training and hiring caregivers should not be a problem, thanks to companies like Cera Care.
Based in the United Kingdom, Cera Care is not a home care agency yet the “tech-enabled care provider” helps families manage their loved one’s home care needs. The company provides families with a digital platform that matches them with a pool of available caregivers.
Cera Care also helps people like, Paula Tinkler, to receive caregiver training in a short amount of time. Tinkler said she was ready to switch careers. So, she sent an email to Cera Care about her interest in becoming a caregiver and completed an assessment online. Tinkler had an interview and began her training—all of which took place digitally and in her home. Within a week, Tinkler was shadowing a caregiver in Workington, England, and was working as a caregiver within a month.
Why is everything done so quickly? Because of the challenge facing the market now, says Ben Maruthappu, Cera Care’s chief executive and co-founder. The demand for care facilities and caregivers is growing and the workforce is limited, he said. There are not enough senior living and nursing home facilities for older adults, and besides, Maruthappu says, most seniors would rather receive care at home.
Keeping A Digital Eye on Seniors
A wearable smart device is most effective when it’s charged and turned on. But an older adult may forget to wear it or may not be able to reach the device’s panic button in an emergency. In these instances, using non-wearable digital devices, like the Elderly Care Home Observer (ECHO) system may be the solution.
EchoCare Technologies Ltd.’s ECHO system monitors the movement of an older adult in a standard-sized apartment of a senior living facility.
ECHO uses radar to alert an emergency operator or caregiver automatically after the system recognizes falls, heavy breathing due to distress, and abnormal situations such as the senior spending too much time in the bathroom or in bed. What’s more, the unit’s sensor can track a person’s posture, location, motion, and respiration.
According to the company, ECHO evaluates seniors’ overall health by analyzing their daily routine.
Monitoring Seniors’ Health On Their Wrists
Apple added an electrocardiogram (ECG) app on its Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6 that records the wearer’s heartbeat and rhythm using an electrical heart sensor on the watch. The app also checks the recording for atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can lead to heart-related complications.
Apple’s competitor, Samsung has an on-demand ECG Monitor app on the Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Watch Active2. What’s unique is that users can send a PDF report of their ECG and other recorded symptoms to their doctor on a compatible Galaxy smartphone that has a health monitor app.
In addition, Samsung rolled out its “My BP Lab 2.0” device that allows people to measure their blood pressure using a compatible Galaxy phone and watch.
A combination of technology, smartphone apps, health sensors, at-home lab tests, and other tools “creates a new game when it comes to disease management for older adults,” said Dr. Bertalan Meskó, director of The Medical Futurist Institute, which promotes bringing healthcare into the 21st century through technology.
Gathering data from wearable devices is only useful if healthcare professionals can access it and include it in their patients’ health records. So, tech companies plan to put more emphasis on how users can get data from wearables.
The increased use of telehealth medicine during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic showed that gathering data from wearable devices is no longer a luxury, but something that’s needed said Sumi Helal, professor and chair in digital health at the UK-based Lancaster University’s Centre for Ageing Research.
From Tracking Seniors to Contact Tracing
As COVID-19 wreaked havoc on nursing homes, some companies, like CarePredict, began using the wristbands worn by seniors as contact tracers. Contact tracing involves tracking down people who have been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19 and asking them to self-isolate and check on their health.
Some nursing homes used CarePredict’s bracelets that track the daily activities of residents. The bracelets—equipped with an emergency button—can tell where residents had been and the residents and staff with whom they have been in contact.
CenTrak, a company that provides real-time, location-based healthcare devices to hospitals, also saw a surge in requests for its equipment. For years, location history was one of the many benefits of its tracking systems, said CenTrak President and CEO Ari Naim. On the list of benefits, Naim said location history was like number 25, but after COVID-19, he now believes it will go further up on the list.