Technology helping more seniors age at home

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Al Brandenburg

By Al Brandenburg

Americans are living longer, and most would prefer to age in their own home and community, rather than going to a hospital or other facility.

But there are challenges and costs associated with maintaining that independence. Health care technology is helping. Nearly 11,000 people turn 65 each day in the United States. The Census Bureau projects the annual number to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060.

Not surprisingly, 9 out of 10 senior citizens would prefer to avoid a nursing home or assisted living facility, according to an AARP study. A 2015 report by the National Council on Aging found the leading reasons include liking where they live, having friends and family nearby, and not wanting to deal with the inconvenience and expense of moving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” The emotional effects of leaving a home or community can have serious health implications. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that both social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality in adults ages 52 and older.

Aging in place is a lot safer now than even a decade ago due in large part to a wide range of technologies. A few examples follow:

HomeFit AR is an app that uses a smartphone to scan a room and recommend modifications to ensure safety, mobility and accessibility. www.aarpinnovationlabs.org/homefit-ar/

Pillo Health offers a device that uses voice recognition, real-time alerts and video-calling capabilities to remind users when to take medication at the correct time and dose. The device stores and dispenses up to four weeks of pills and alerts when it’s time for refills. pillohealth.com

BellPal offers a watch that functions as a medical alert device. In the event of an emergency, it can notify loved ones via smartphone or 24/7 monitoring center that contacts EMS, police or fire department. The watch uses motion detection sensors to determine if the wearer has fallen. www.bellpal.com/us/

CarePredict @Home is a smart wearable that uses AI to detect changes in daily patterns that may signal a health problem. It can alert others if the user has been skipping meals, has trouble sleeping, hasn’t gotten out of bed, or displays atypical behavior. www.carepredict.com

Aging in place requires planning ahead. Talk to your doctor about any health problems or concerns you have and what assistive devices and home modifications could help.

Al Brandenburg is director of Maricopa Senior Coalition (MCS).

Sources: AARP, seniorlifetips.com, greatseniorliving.com, everydayhealth.com


This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.