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Monitored Independence for Seniors


Is the digital revolution now taking on better living and health care for the older set? Can technology offer tools to help the elderly continue to live at home through connectedness with faraway family and friends?

"Monitored independence" is changing how older generations age in America for people who want to be autonomous. Here are some examples:

An 80-year-old retired nurse lives alone, still driving to movies, plays and dinners with friends, but acknowledges that when you reach a certain age, emergencies can happen fast. Her son installed a remote monitoring system with motion sensors placed throughout the house. Even though he lives hundreds of miles away, her son can see whether his mom is moving around, whether she's sleeping or whether she forgot to lock the door.

It's based on an algorithm that detects behavioral patterns: Have her activity levels or her eating habits changed significantly? Alarm.com's Wellness system can offer such a service at an affordable price. 

The Smiths were introduced to the Amazon Echo through a pilot program for seniors. Carol, 83 and a wheelchair user, is now able to control lights and the thermostat. She can ask Alexa to remind her to take medications, call her brother or even call for help. If her husband has to be away, it allows Carol to be independently safe. 

Experts believe that voice-assistive technologies such as Google Home and HomePod will likely play a bigger role in helping seniors age in place, especially when paired with apps geared specifically for elder living. Ask Marvee, for instance, integrates with Amazon Echo through 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. 

Here are some more helpful tech solutions:

  • LifePod allows 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?"
  • An app called Medisafe helps elders who need to keep track of when to take their next dose of drugs, whether to take the pills with water or food and which side effects might be attributable to the medication. With its MedFriend feature, you can designate someone to get an alert when users haven't taken their medication. 
  • MedHab has MyNotifi, a medical alert wristband designed to detect falls and send an alert to a family member or friend.
  • Similar fall detection technologies in various stages of testing include SafelyYou, which uses wall-mounted cameras and software algorithms to detect falls, and UnaliWear's Kanega watch, which combines fall detection, voice-assisted emergency aid and medication reminders.

Independent, connected living can work through products with scalable technology for seniors with active lifestyles — from voice-controlled devices to give health-related prompts to improve self-management to technology that can be framed as being fun and convenient. 

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