Anyone over 60 is likely to recall the popular 1960s TV sitcom, Get Smart!, in which a bumbling secret agent used a panoply of “high-tech” devices in each episode. While the show employed many visionary ideas (think of Maxwell Smart using his shoe as a cell phone) which have since come to pass in a more functional form, today’s technology can help seniors even more than it helped Agent 86. How “smart” is technology when it comes to senior support and care?
Smart Phones. Smart Clothes. Smart Health Care.
The Internet of Things (smart, connected devices or objects) is exploding at a mind-blowing rate: a decade ago, there were already more objects connected to the Internet than people, from smartphones to smart cars to smart clothes. By 2025, this figure is projected to reach 80 billion.
Three-quarters of Americans surveyed say they feel transferring wearable health data to their physicians is acceptable. The number of wearables shipped in 2015 was 72.5 million devices. In 2020, it’s predicted to be 228.3 million.
Clearly, technology is transforming the way we take care of seniors now. And the seniors themselves are on board with it.
OnGuardian, for example, is state-of-the-art care assistance that promises peace of mind, ease of use, and affordability for families. Powered by Amazon Echo and Alexa, OnGuardian empowers caregivers by streamlining support, collaboration, and access to information while providing care recipients with an easy to use voice interface.
Catalyzing Smart Care
In many cases, seniors themselves serve as the catalysts for technology solutions. Companies such as health analytics technology firms SmartCare Consultants and Care at Hand are on the cutting edge in utilizing smart tech to monitor seniors’ well being, and in both instances, a beloved senior relative’s health crisis led to the launch of the business.
When his grandmother was unable to call for help in a medical emergency, SmartCare Consultants founder Bryan Jefferson created round-the-clock, transparent care that introduces groundbreaking technology into senior living communities, from networked devices to cloud data analysis that provides immediate, timely reports.
Care at Hand takes smart health even further. After his great uncle’s health rapidly failed, Care at Hand co-founder Jeffrey Levy created a platform that allows non-medical personnel to use evidence-based smart surveys to predict and prevent hospitalizations. What’s more, he made it easy for seniors themselves to use.
In this touching story, Levy describes how his mother, with zero clinical training, was able to use Care at Hand to monitor his father’s health status in the aftermath of a medical emergency, detect a developing blood clot, alert his physician, and prevent another trip to the ER.
Think about what this could mean as your loved one becomes frail or develops memory loss.
And if a senior is healthy and wants to remain so? Wearable tech such as fitness trackers keeps seniors walking and accountable, prompting one senior to triple her daily mileage, improve her diet and shed 13 unwanted pounds. That’s a pretty good ROI for a small device.
A Different Take on Man’s Best Buddy
Maybe the answer is a loyal dog — but not one that requires a lot of care, such as walking, feeding and potty training.
A virtual pet companion might be the perfect answer for someone with memory loss, and these robo-cats and dogs are so lifelike, seniors respond with the same sense of delight.
Some senior living communities do have a living “community pet” whose personality is ideal for senior companionship.
Shots That Save Lives
You’re aware of preventive shots that your loved one may need. What is less well known are after-the-fact shots that can save a life if they’re administered in time.
For example, one senior woman was hospitalized due to an irregular heartbeat. Upon discharge, her son moved her from her apartment to a senior group home, where she could be closely monitored. That was a smart move.
Just a day later, as she was sitting on the couch, she suddenly slumped over and couldn’t sit back up — sure signs of a stroke. A group home staff member immediately called 911, an ambulance sped to the hospital, and upon arrival, a physician administered the “stroke shot“, which removed the blood clot in her brain. Her feeling and speech returned, and she was able to go home.
This was a life-saving intervention. As the American Stroke Association proclaims, “Stroke used to be the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Now it’s fifth. The higher survival rates are largely due to medical treatment advances. The right care — right away — can save both lives and quality of life.”
Art Inspires Science
If a prompt shot can bring someone back from a stroke, can a similar type of ingenuity work for cancer?
Thinking far beyond the box is key. A Ph.D. student at the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, who is also a grad student in integrative cancer research, was interested in finding a way to get treatment for ovarian cancer directly into the cell. Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers for women, and the majority of cases occur in women over sixty.
She began experimenting with origami, a Japanese folding paper art, to discover how to create a minimally invasive way to deliver the medication precisely where it needs to go. The result: a foldable drug-delivery device.
Surveillance for Senior Protection
Video cameras have long been used to spot (and often stop) robberies in progress, as well as to catch perpetrators. There hasn’t been nearly as much done to stop a less visible type of crime, however: elder abuse.
Woefully underreported, elder abuse encompasses everything from benign neglect to financial exploitation (which includes all kinds of scams) to identity theft, as well as actual physical abuse. Now, tech innovation is preparing to keep seniors safer.
Established in 2016, the Elder Justice Innovation Grants program, administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds research and projects to reduce the incidence of elder abuse nationwide — and to help those who have been mistreated.
Five grants were awarded in 2017 to nonprofits working to protect elders, such as Rush University, which is testing the effectiveness of using simulated video surveillance equipment to monitor various living situations, including private homes, low-income housing and senior housing (all with the agreement of study participants).
Helping the Caregivers Who Help Seniors
Finally, technology is striving to provide caregivers with the kind of support that makes supporting seniors easier. The need for such assistance is crucial: by 2020, the number of Americans expected to need assistance is projected to be 117 million — yet the number of unpaid family caregivers is projected to reach just 45 million.
Technology can help bridge this gap.
A trio of pilot studies tested a care coordination platform, personal emergency response system (PERS) and a home care aide hiring platform for six weeks. All three options addressed specific caregiver needs, and demonstrated areas where functionality could be improved.
From improving engagement to assuaging loneliness, supporting caregivers to combating abuse, our globally expanding lifespan means smart senior care technology has become everyone’s concern.
Senior Care Technology at Kensington Place
At Kensington Place Redwood City, we’re on the leading edge of senior care, in every respect. We offer more comprehensive services than other senior living communities, enabling us to provide enhanced assisted living for seniors who:
- Are alert and engaged, or frail, and/or wheelchair bound
- Require 2- or 3-person assistance
- Use oxygen
- Need hospice care
- Require pureed meals and/or special diets
In addition, we offer:
- Diabetes management, including injections
- Medication administration
- Onsite physical, speech and occupational therapies
- Physician services on-site
- State-of-the-art sensors that alert staff to resident needs or changes in routines that warrant attention
Our memory care expertise is unmatched, with the best caregiver-to-resident ratio in the area.
We look forward to meeting you and discussing how The Kensington can best meet your loved one’s needs, now and in the future.