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April 08, 2015

Connected Aging: Now and On the Horizon

Fortunately, as the aging population of the United States increases, there are continuing advancements in technology that support the ability of older adults to remain in their homes as they age. For more information, it’s helpful to consult the Center of Technology and Aging report (2014) titled The New Era of Connected Aging: A Framework for Understanding Technologies that Support Older Adults in Aging in Place. It’s worth reading the entire report but here are key highlights.

Connected aging “empower(s) seniors to better manage their health, stay connected to their communities, and get access to the services they need to remain independent in their homes and other community-based settings.” This includes medical, social and functional needs.  Here is some good news: as older adults and caregivers alike are becoming increasingly tech savvy, the prices of devices are decreasing.

Four Main Areas Where Connected Aging is Helpful

  • Body: products help to monitor and manage health, both physical and mental, to maintain wellness, and manage chronic conditions
  • Home environment: products help monitor how well you’re functioning at home
  • Community: products help you stay connected to friends and family
  • Caregiving: tools help those who support you in maintaining your lifestyle

1. Body Technology Options

These range from blood pressure cuffs and blood-glucose meters to monitors that focus on your levels of activity, how well you’re sleeping, your heart rate, and more. More sophisticated tools analyze results and can even provide automated advice based on data collected.

There are also tools that monitor mood and even levels of potential depression, although they are not yet available to the general public. This is sometimes conducted by monitoring fight/flight reflexes, by “listening” to your voice to detect distress, and more. You can receive reminders to take your medications, have the correct amount of medication dispensed – and even use “smart toilets” that monitor and analyze discharged body fluids.

On the horizon: Smart pills will determine if you have taken your medications. While external monitors will more effectively monitor heart rate, blood oxidation, and hydration. Google is developing smart contact lenses that can monitor blood glucose. A floor mat is being developed that monitors foot ulcers in diabetic patients. Home diagnostics will become much easier, saving you travel time and hassle, with a smartphone app interpreting results and explaining them to you.

2. Home Environment Technology Options

You can feel more secure with fall detection technology that calls for help if you can’t get up. As with all technologies, there can be false alarms. Manufacturers are continually working on improvements.

Other tools monitor motion in the home, whether or not the stove is on or off, if carbon dioxide/carbon monoxide levels are acceptable, if the air quality is good; if smoke is present in the home and more. Lights can be dimmed and doors locked and/or unlocked remotely. If closer monitoring is desired, video monitoring allows caregivers to see video of your activities via  smartphone or tablet.

On the horizon: Technologies are in development that can predict falls in order to prevent them.  Wearable technology such as Google Glass will assist with vision and hearing impairments.  Perhaps the most futuristic sounding are the EEG sensing devices that will help you to control your environment through the power of your mind.

3. Community Technology

There are multiple ways to communicate with friends, family members, and caregivers through video-enabled apps on a computer or mobile phone. There are also online journaling apps and forums where older adults can share information with one another. There are cognitive games that help with memory in fun ways and games that can help with physical rehabilitation.

On the horizon: Apps are being developed to help manage complex health conditions.  HIPAA-compliant software is being created that will allow older adults to seamlessly communicate with healthcare providers as well as with family and friends.

4. Caregiving Technology

This technology helps caregivers make informed decisions and monitor care of older adults. While you don’t need to be actively involved in their use, they can provide reassurance that caregiving is being made easier and more effective through technology.

On the horizon: Robotic technologies are being developed that will improve quality of life and greatly boost caregiving-at-home possibilities.

Technology can also help you begin and maintain an active online social life. Download our free eBook to learn more about getting started with social media.

Social Media for Older Adults


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