The ability to live comfortably in one’s home or community safely, independently and comfortably can reduce health care costs, avoid or delay admission to institutional care, and ease the stress on family caregivers.
Many older adults and their caregivers rely on technology to help them age in place. From Alexa-type devices to online grocery delivery to artificially intelligent sensors which monitor frailty, there’s no doubt that the right devices used correctly can increase safety and peace of mind for both elders and their caregivers.
With a growing population of people over the age of 60 and a shrinkage of caregivers, age tech — digital technology built around the needs and wants of older adults, is becoming a booming industry. In fact, the age tech market is expected to reach $2 trillion, according to The Gerontechnologist’s 2021 Age Tech Market Map.
Age tech can help older people (or caregivers) monitor just about everything — from medication reminders to when the fridge was last opened to how many times an elder got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. While many older adults are comfortable with and even embrace technology, there are also some downsides. Devices can be abandoned because they either fail to live up to initial promises or are too complicated, too invasive or just too much of a hassle, according to researchers. Some elders are uncomfortable with the trade-offs between additional safety and perceived or actual loss of privacy. And then, there are issues of affordability, access and the digital divide.
“For older adults, it’s imperative to provide an integrated smart solution, not just smart technology,” writes Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging and Health Technology Watch, where she provides analysis and guidance about trends that enable older people and boomers to improve their quality of life.
Orlov is one of the experts speaking at AHCJ’s upcoming webinar, Aging in place technology: challenges and trends, on April 6 at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PT.
What do families need to ensure their loved ones stay safe and healthy? Panelist Leslie Kernisan, M.D., M.P.H., a geriatrician, and founder of betterhealthwhileaging.net, will look at actual needs that arise when an older adult tries to age in place. What problems do they (and often, the family) end up trying to solve?
Speaking of solutions —Jeffrey Kaye, M.D., director of ORCATECH (Oregon Center for Aging & Technology) at Oregon Health & Science University and a professor of neurology and biomedical engineering at the university, will highlight ORCATECH’s Life Lab, which could be a national aging-in-place technology model. Kaye is leading a multi-site, nationwide study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Many people assume seniors aren’t interested in technology. But they have proven they can adjust to an ever-evolving technology landscape as well as other age groups, according to an article on SeniorLiving.org. According to the article, more than half of older adults bought a new tech product in 2019, such as a smartphone, laptop computer or smart home device. And an estimated 75% of older adults with an internet connection report using it daily.
A recent University of Michigan study surveyed people ages 50-80 about their use of and interest in mobile health apps. Twenty-eight percent reported using at least one mobile health app. Overall, 34% of older adults said they use or have used apps for exercise, 22% for nutrition, 20% for weight loss and 17% for sleep, according to the report.
Popular technology for seniors includes things like food delivery service apps, transportation and ride-sharing mobile apps, and video chatting programs to keep up with grandchildren and others. There are even virtual retirement communities in which seniors can stay in their own homes but be part of a membership organization that helps seniors make medical appointments, or get a handyman to make repairs.
Some 268 such “villages” with more than 40,000 members exist in the U.S., and an additional 70 are in development, Kaiser Health News reported recently. They’re not yet a mass-market option for aging in place, the article said, but they are offering social connections through forums such as discussion groups, classes, or outings, or other social events.
Journalists attending the webinar should walk away with a variety of story angles and ideas from our experts. We hope you can join us!