As tech rapidly redefines every area of our lives, senior technology offers an exceptional opportunity to enhance senior living.
We recently explored some of the smart senior technologies that are transforming senior living today, from smart wearables and smart care monitors to robopets and smart medication delivery techniques.
Let’s dive deeper to discover how breakthroughs in “nana” technology help seniors and care providers now.
Innovation That Supports Tech-Savvy Seniors
Tech luminary Alexis Ohanian, a co-founder of the social news website Reddit, foresees tremendous “positive” disruption in the senior living industry over the next decade. Managing partner of Initialized Capital, Ohanian is investing in elder tech, including startups Voyage, an autonomous car company; Papa, which provides rentable grandchildren, and a secure banking service for seniors.
As 10,000 U.S. Boomers retire daily (which continues until 2029, when the youngest Boomers turn 65), this massive market “now has a kind of tech fluency that we’ve never seen before,” he says. But far from replacing senior care providers, Ohanian sees senior technology working in tandem with senior living communities to empower the care team.
“Where software excels is being able to store and track lots of things that would otherwise be really time consuming for humans to do, and then give the caregivers the chance to really focus on the things that matter, which is the companionship and the empathy and all the stuff that will always be the domain of humans,” he says.
Prescribing Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is hot a topic, though it hasn’t been associated with elder health until now. The Canadian-based Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) reports that in a feasibility study, seniors with dementia benefited from wearing VR headsets.
Not only did they enjoy the simulated natural environments, says lead researcher Lora Appel, Ph.D., but being in “nature” appears to elicit conversations around memory because the headset users relate what they’re seeing to personal experience.
VR has application as a caregiving tool as well. It can help those caring for dementia patients in a memory care setting manage agitation and aggression. And one hospital, in collaboration with CABHI, designed a tailored VR program to both educate caregivers and boost empathy for those with Alzheimer’s.
While VR is still in the early stages as a dementia resource, senior technology expert Terry Myers is a strong advocate for the medium, noting that VR is “incredibly powerful…beyond anything, we’ve been able to use to talk to people, share stories and create feelings. I think healthcare is a natural fit for it.”
GeronTechnology: Oxymoron or Opportunity?
While many seniors are excited to utilize a new service or product designed to enhance their life, such as voice-activated technology and virtual assistant tech, others may resist change until there is a perceived benefit.
For example, one senior with severe hearing impairment steadfastly refused to consider any technology more advanced than a captioned telephone when his wife was alive.
Her death was a wake-up call. Within weeks he was learning email on his son’s old laptop. Next, he purchased a smartphone so he could communicate with people face-to-face, by converting their speech to text. After his first smartphone training session, he emailed his son, “I discovered they have an app that will let me call AAA if I ever have car trouble — and I’ll get their replies in text!” Spurred by necessity, he initiated a stunning turnaround in behavior.
The tipping point for the adoption of any senior technology is showing seniors how a specific technology will help them — before they actually need it.
Bryan Reimer, the lead researcher on self-driving cars at MIT’s AgeLab, says, “Training is a make-or-break issue. If we don’t help people get used to the new technology now — teach them the advantages, drawbacks and appropriate use of each new feature — we risk losing them forever when glitches emerge. It’s far easier to lose trust than it is to gain it, and that’s particularly true for older adults.”
Now Hear This
At Kensington Place Redwood City, we take hearing assistance a level beyond hearing aids or text messages, with Eversound, a wireless hearing technology designed to improve older adults’ engagement and participation at group events. Eversound is focused on ending social isolation by addressing the challenges of hearing loss that occur as we age.
Referred to as an “engagement amplifier”, Eversound connects all residents to a central transmitter that can be connected to any audio source. Eversound participants wear lightweight headphones that block background noise and are able to hear and participate, often to a degree they haven’t in years.
Joanne Hubbard, executive director at Kensington Place, says, “Often people overlook a person with dementia’s inability to focus on the activity due to noises around them and distraction of others. Sometimes the person simply can’t hear, but people attribute the disconnect to confusion related to their dementia.
“Eversound has opened up a new world for residents with dementia. Residents who were disengaged or agitated are singing, answering questions, alert, laughing, and interacting with the group.”
“At Kensington Place, in the heart of Silicon Valley, we aim to use the best technology to serve our residents, and Eversound is at the top of the list!”
Is There A Remote Patient Monitor In The House?
Aging apps that bring medical help to seniors, rather than the other way around, are proliferating faster than you can say, “senior technology at your service.”
Companies such as Heal, founded by a board-certified internal medicine doctor, bring background-checked, licensed primary care physicians to your doorstep — even if that means a hotel or a senior’s daughter’s house if your loved one has a health emergency while out of town.
Canadian researchers have developed a memory prosthetic known as the Hippocamera, a digital hippocampus app that records and replays memories at high speed, helping people with Alzheimer’s re-learn what’s been lost to dementia.
Livpact is a care engagement platform that facilitates coordination, communication, monitoring and service for caregivers. Livpact’s advanced AI care companion keeps the entire team on the same virtual page.
Similarly, Theora Care’s app, wearable, and sensor solutions help provide peace of mind for caregivers, which means greater peace of mind for you. Theora Connect is especially helpful in keeping seniors safe and care providers informed when someone is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
EmPowerYu is a home care management platform that uses continuous risk assessment to provide real-time insights that enable adults with high medical needs to remain independent longer.
Totemic Guardian dispenses with sensors and wearables, simply monitoring the senior’s entire living space to detect a fall or other emergency. Using technology similar to self-driving cars, Guardian can monitor a 2000 square foot home from a single, centrally located device.
Bad Genes, and Skin Cells for Brains
At the same time we’re turning on apps, we’re preparing to turn off certain genes to increase lifespan. A ten-year research project conducted by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the University of Washington has identified 238 genes that, when silenced, increase the lifespan of yeast cells.
One of these genes is linked to “a genetic master switch that has long been associated with calorie restriction through fasting and increased lifespan,” say researchers. The same result can also be achieved by fasting for three days, which regenerates the entire immune system.
Scientists are discovering how to turn skin cells into healthy brain tissue, and SingFit is staving off dementia by turning music into medicine. Clearly, we’re living in a new alchemical age, where skin and music can boost mental health, with lasting results.
A note of caution: AI in health care has a potential dark side: a new report explains how tiny data tweaks could cause the neural network powering the AI to go, rogue, leading to unintended or even disastrous consequences. For example, by changing a small number of pixels in an image of a benign skin lesion, a diagnostic AI system could be tricked into identifying the lesion as malignant.
Smart Cities At Sea? Sail This Way…
AI innovation for the mature market isn’t limited to health care — or to land. Carnival Cruises is combining IoT technology, connected devices, and AI to offer a transformative experience at sea: a personalized wearable that creates a customized cruise for each guest.
The Ocean Medallion relies on 7,000 sensors strategically placed throughout the ship to provide whatever the cruise participant desires, on demand.
It’s a lot like rubbing a magic lamp: the most extensive experiential IoT experience thus far, according to Carnival, which has developed the ability to imbue the entire environment with sensors — something Silicon Valley still dreams of.
At Kensington Place Redwood City, we’re proud to be on the forefront in using senior technology to serve our memory care residents. As Joanne Hubbard, our executive director, says, “When serving people with dementia, it is all about the moments…connecting with and living in their moment of time.”
We look forward to meeting you and discovering how we can help create and share more of these moments with you and your loved one.