Delano, 80, of Denver has no plans to slow down anytime
soon. She still drives to movies, plays and dinners out
with friends. A retired elder care nurse who lives
alone, she also knows that "when you reach a
certain age, emergencies can happen fast." So, when
her son, Tom Rogers, talked to her about installing a
remote monitoring system, she didnít hesitate.
motion sensors placed throughout the house, Rogers can
see if his mom is moving around, if sheís sleeping (or
not), if she forgot to lock the door and, based on a
sophisticated algorithm that detects behavioral
patterns, whether her activity level or eating habits
have changed significantly, for instance.
gives both of us peace of mind, particularly as she ages
and wants to live at home," said Rogers, who lives
near Washington, D.C., hundreds of miles away from her.
$45-$60 a month (plus an upfront fee of $100 to $200),
Alarm.comís Wellness system is markedly less expensive
than options such as hiring a home health aide to check
on her or moving her into a retirement community. The
average cost of nursing home care exceeds $95,000 a
year, while assisted living and in-home care tops
$45,000 annually, according to a 2017 Genworth Financial
exorbitant costs of nursing home and assisted living
care are driving sales ó and innovation ó in the
technology market, said Dr. Eric Topol, director of the
Scripps Translational Science Institute and author of
"The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the
Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care."
many, the technology offers not just the tools they need
to continue to live at home, but newfound confidence and
connectedness with faraway family and friends.
calls it "monitored independence," and it is
changing how older generations age in America.
"People want to be autonomous, irrespective of
age," he said.
was certainly the case for Carol Smith, 83, who lives in
the Carlsbad by the Sea retirement community in
Carlsbad, Calif., with her husband, Ray, 84. "Iím
in a wheelchair, so I depend on my husband a lot,"
Smiths were introduced to the Amazon Echo last February
through a pilot program for seniors. Carol is now able
to control lights and the thermostat. She can ask Alexa
to remind her to take medications, or to call her
brother or even to call for help.
gives her a great deal of independence," Ray said.
"If for some reason I have to be away, sheís able
to function on her own. Itís keeping her safe, but
closely related to that, itís allowing her to be
technologies like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and
HomePod are likely to play a bigger role in helping
seniors age in place, especially when paired with apps
geared specifically for senior living, predicts Majd
Alwan, executive director of the LeadingAge Center for
Aging Services Technologies (CAST). AskMarvee, for
instance, integrates with Amazon Echo via an online
portal to allow seniors to immediately connect with
family members for a quick check-in or if something more
serious is going on. (The Basic app is free; premium
versions cost $15 or $20 per month.)
to be introduced later this year, takes voice-assisted
technology a step further, said Laurie Orlov, founder of
Aging in Place Technology Watch. It will allow users to
engage with the device, much like Alexa, but will also
periodically check in with them independent of a voice
prompt, at preprogrammed intervals: Good morning, Nancy.
Did you remember to take your medication?
Mike Willis, 63, of Guelph, Ontario, getting regular
medication prompts means the difference between staying
healthy and ending up in the hospital ó again. Willis
takes 27 pills a day, most of them anti-rejection drugs
to ensure that his body doesnít reject the heart
transplant he received 2 1/2 years ago after contracting
viral myocarditis. To keep it all straight, he uses
Medisafe, an app that reminds him when itís time to
take his next dose, whether to take the pills with water
or food, and what side effects might be attributable to
my transplant, I was a little confused, so I designated
my wife, Linda, as a ĎMedFriend,í which meant she
got an alert when I didnít take my medication,"
he said. (The app is free; the Premium version, with
additional reminder and Medfriend features, costs $4.99
the ability to designate a loved one as a second set of
eyes and ears can be comforting rather than intrusive,
as Willis and Delano have discovered. And yet, thereís
a fine line between technology that allows older adults
to live independently, and technology that reinforces
stereotypical images of aging as a slow decline toward
recently, Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) ó
made famous by the "Help, Iíve fallen and I canít
get up" TV ads ó was the only reliable technology
to help older adults who had fallen, says David Lindeman,
director of the Center for Technology and Aging at the
University of California-Berkeley.
the end of March, MedHab, a Texas company best known for
its wearable insoles for rehab patients, will begin
shipping MyNotifi, a medical alert wristband designed to
detect falls and send an alert to a family member or
friend. "It looks like a watch, and Mom or Dad can
invite anybody they want, family or friends, to get
those alerts through the MyNotifi Fall Detection
app," said MedHab President and CEO Johnny Ross.
(The device is available for preorder at $299.)
fall detection technologies in various stages of testing
include SafelyYou, which uses wall-mounted cameras and
software algorithms to detect falls, and UnaliWearís
Kanega watch, which combines fall detection,
voice-assisted emergency aid and medication reminders.
the goal is independent and connected living, we need
solutions that are multifaceted and that connect people
with their family, their doctors, their neighbors,"
said Jody Holtzman, senior managing partner of Longevity
Venture Advisors. "If the technology is framed in
the context of fun and convenience, like Alexa, then
people will start to buy these things."
Smith canít imagine life without Alexa. When I read,
"I just say, ĎAlexa, what does this word mean?í
Or I ask Alexa to play the song. Oh, and Iím a
basketball fan, but if I canít stay up late to watch
the end of the game, Iíll ask Alexa what the score is
the next morning. There are so many things you can ask
her. Sheís fun. And sheís always pleasant."