By Karen Smith, head of sales and marketing, MePACS.
People are living longer and fuller lives thanks to advancements in public health, nutrition, sanitation and medicine in the last 100 years. And now, thanks to innovative technology, there are a number of products available that are allowing people to age at home.
People over the age of 60 are estimated to account for one in six people globally by the year 2030, and by the middle of the century it’ll reach one in every five people. The world is facing an ageing population crisis and that will bring strain on healthcare and aged care facilities.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has shown that there is a significant distrust in the aged-care industry. Recently, an Australian survey showed that only 15% of locals aged between 60 and 80 trust the aged care industry. There has also been a significant increase in people considering in-home aged care services for people between 50 and 70 years old in Australia.
During the pandemic, MePACS has seen a 60% increase in demand for personal alarms and smartwatches for clients. Technology is allowing seniors to live a more independent life at home while continuing to do the things they love without fear.
Living an independent life
Most developed countries are facing an ageing population. In the US, AARP Research found 76% of Americans aged 50 and older would prefer to live at home as they age. In Australia it’s a similar story. A Bureau of Statistics 2015 survey found that 94.8% of Australians aged 65 and over are living in households and a quarter of older adults live alone.
While many older adults would prefer to live at home, it’s not always possible especially for those who have limited mobility and find performing regular household tasks difficult. Luckily, technology has improved dramatically so that household tasks can be automated, such as smart fridges that can sense when groceries are running low. There are virtual assistants, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo which can perform tasks using voice commands.
Technology is now so advanced that there are even robots that can play with your pets. Samsung has developed a device called Ballie, which uses artificial intelligence and video cameras. It can roll around the house looking for any mess that’s been made by pets and signal to a robotic vacuum cleaner that the area needs to be cleaned up.
Technology is making senior living safer
Falls have the potential to cause hip fractures or broken bones, but can even result in death. If an elderly person falls in the home and is unable to move, help is very difficult to get especially for those that live alone. Smartwatches with in-built fall detection can allow seniors to get help quickly and potentially save their life if they fall off a ladder or slip in the bathroom.
Another major problem that seniors may find as they get older is becoming more forgetful, which could result in leaving a stove on in the kitchen. There are now smart stoves and ovens that can automatically switch stoves off if they detect smoke. This is particularly useful for older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
There are even smart homes, where the entire home can monitor an elderly person’s daily movements. They can track heart rate, fall detection and alert emergency services or a family member if the person is unable to respond. Technology is not only giving seniors peace of mind living at home but their families and loved ones too.
Keeping seniors socially connected
There are many studies that have found people who have strong social ties are more likely to live longer than those that don’t. It’s especially important for seniors who live alone to maintain social interaction to prevent feelings of loneliness which can damage mental health.
Smartphones and tablets can create that vital link with family and loved ones for elderly people. Selfhelp Community Services, a non-profit organization in New York City found that their Virtual Senior Center (VSC) program, where seniors were able to stay connected and remain socially active, reduced feelings of isolation by 85% in those who participated in it.
Cost of technology for seniors
As more devices that are designed to help seniors enter the market, the price is gradually dropping. It also depends what type of product you’re looking for either yourself or a senior relative. Smartwatches are relatively cheaper than a smart home, which requires sensors to be set up around the house. Some smartwatches will only require you to make a one-off payment upon purchase, while others you’ll pay a monthly fee to link to a response center where the user is put in direct contact with a team member if they experience a fall or a health problem.
As with purchasing any technology, you want to find the product that suits your needs or the needs of your elderly relative the best and where you will get the quickest service if an emergency situation were to occur.