This article originally appeared on the official blog for Episcopal Retirement Services and is reprinted with permission. For more expert advice on positive aging, visit episcopalretirement.com/blog.
Technology and seniors. Two words that a lot of people might not immediately pair. But that’s changing.
There are a host of in-home assistive technologies, apps, mobile devices and even virtual reality (VR) experiences that are making healthy aging easier than ever before.
It’s one of the primary worries for the family members of elders who live alone: what if Mom falls, can’t reach the phone and no one is around to summon help?
In the 1980s and 1990s, wearable, wireless emergency call buttons were developed and popularized as a means of addressing this problem. And they undoubtedly helped to save lives. But their efficacy is limited.
What if your parent hits his or her head and is knocked unconscious? What if he or she has a stroke and is paralyzed, or can’t speak? A call button only works if a senior can activate it.
Now, infrared and auditory activity sensors can be placed in your older loved one’s home. They discreetly monitor for motion and sound, and allow adult children or caregivers to check and make sure Mom or Dad is up and moving around as normal.
If human activity isn’t detected when it should be, or for an extended period of time, the system can automatically summon the primary caregiver, a designated neighbor, and/ or emergency services.
App-Based Medication Management
The second most common worry for caregivers might be whether or not an older loved one is taking medications as prescribed. Now, app-based medication reminder programs, like TriHealth’s MedaCheck, (in Cincinnati) are giving families more peace of mind. It’s an easy-to-use, dedicated computer tablet for reminding seniors when and how to take their medications each day.
Seniors don’t even have to worry about setting up the device; TriHealth’s care providers pre-program it for your loved one, based on the medication information your family provides. All your parent or grandparent need do is plug it in and turn in on.
Once activated, the MedaCheck app provides your elder with information about his or her prescriptions and sends out timely reminders to take medications.
Best of all, if your loved one forgets to take his or her medicine, he or she will receive a reminder phone call from a TriHealth care provider. And, it functions as a safety check: if staff members don’t reach your loved one by phone, they’ll send an alert to you and, if warranted, summon first responders.
“How’s Mom?” App for Caregivers
Here at Episcopal Retirement Services, we’re not sitting back and waiting for the market to provide our clients and their families with solutions. We’re inventing them ourselves.
Last year, we co-developed the How’s Mom? app, which allows family members to directly communicate with members of their loved ones’ care team.
When a provider – a nurse at the doctor’s office, a personal care assistant at a retirement community, or an in-home aide – has new information about a senior’s wellness or wellbeing, he or she can add an update directly to the app, so that family members who are connected via the application can see, in real time, how their older relative is doing.
Family members and caregivers alike tell us that they love the app’s streamlined interface, easy-to-understand displays and ability to track their loved one’s medical progress.
Virtual Travel and VR-Assisted Memory Therapy
For seniors with limited mobility, or severe health problems, traveling to a National Park, famous landmark, or even across town to see their former home might seem like an unachievable dream. But smartphone-based VR programs are changing all that.
Now, using VR programs and sites like Google Earth, older people can “go” places and see sights that they never thought they would see. They can visit the Great Wall of China, the Empire State Building, or even the moon. They can also relive memories, through 3-D playbacks of old home movies and VR-enhanced audio recordings, or participate in games or game-based memory therapy sessions.
Technology is making positive aging ever simpler.
What other senior-friendly, healthy aging technologies are out there? How could new tech help your loved to positively age?
Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.