by Steven Moses, CSA CDP CPRS
More and more seniors are becoming familiar with communication technology, especially over the last year and a half as they have lived through isolation caused by the pandemic. But while COVID has certainly accelerated older adults’ interest in tech, this trend was already on the rise. In 2000, only 14% of people over 65 were internet users, and over the last 20 years, that number has risen to 73%. Technology gives seniors, families, caregivers and medical professionals quicker access to more information than ever before.
Seniors have become more dependent on technology to communicate with loved ones through video calls and social media, and they are much more avid technology users as a result. According to a study conducted by the AARP, more than half of people surveyed over the age of 50 own a tablet. However, technology is affecting seniors in more ways than access to social media and television shows. With the entire world now at our fingertips, advancements in technology are helping to keep seniors safer and happier than ever.
Wearable Technology for Elders
In 2018, a product hit the market that drastically changed the senior care industry: the Apple Watch Series 4. While numerous wearable devices already tracked health metrics like heart rate, the fourth generation of the popular Apple Watch launched new features, including fall detection. When the device detects that the user has experienced a hard fall, it can give them the option to call emergency services directly from their wrist. If the watch detects that the user is immobile, or unable to grant permission to make the call, it will begin to buzz and alert for 30 seconds. When that time is up, the watch will call emergency services, then notify the user’s emergency contacts of the detected fall.
This feature alone has allowed families to breathe a sigh of relief for their elderly loved ones living independently at home. In addition to fall detection, the Apple Watch includes features such as blood oxygen monitoring, heart tracking and the capability to perform an electrocardiogram. The information gathered from these features can easily be shared with doctors or other medical professionals to help provide accurate diagnoses and treatments.
Several other companies have made strides in the world of wearable technology for older adults. The Freedom 2.0 created by Medical Guardian was designed with features specifically for seniors in mind. The watch includes advanced location tracking, as well as automated alerts to help seniors manage their day-to-day tasks including taking their medication, appointment reminders, caregiver messaging capabilities and more.
Technology in Senior Communities
Senior living communities also employ technology to help keep their residents safe. CERTUS Premier Memory Care Living in Orlando, Fla. has motion sensors in every room to monitor its residents’ safety. Often, seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are unable to remember that they need ambulation assistance devices, such as a wheelchair or walker. The motion sensors in each room give peace of mind to caregivers, families and seniors because the moment a senior is in need of ambulatory support, the staff is notified. This technology allows caregivers to prevent serious injury before it happens.
Caregivers often assist seniors who have trouble communicating their needs, including those who are nonverbal. Seniors who are incontinent and utilize absorbent products, such as adult diapers, may be unable to communicate when they need assistance. One large national residential care provider has partnered with a startup company to create a product that notifies caregivers the moment that an adult brief is wet or soiled. This technology helps fulfill an important need beyond the physical: the emotional need of feeling as dignified, happy and as comfortable as possible.
Much of today’s technology in senior care is streamlining the most important, relevant and time-sensitive information to the necessary medical professionals and caregivers to ensure that seniors’ needs can be met quickly and efficiently. When a senior is living independently, living with a memory-related illness or experiencing difficulty communicating with their care team, technology is the universal language that can close these gaps and keep us more in touch with seniors’ needs than ever before.
With so much technology available on the market, it can be hard to determine exactly what you or your loved one needs. To learn more about the technology available, and the technology utilized in your local senior living communities, contact your local Oasis Senior Advisor by calling (888) 455-5838.