High-Tech Increasingly Used to Allow Seniors to Age in Place

Several pilot programs are being conducted by the Oregon Center for Aging & Technology to test motion sensors, skype-like video monitors, robots and other high-tech equipment, as a means of constantly monitoring the well-being of seniors in their own homes. Increasing attention is being given to the promise of these technologies as a way of allowing seniors to age in place in their own homes.

With these monitoring technologies, adult children and family caregivers can monitor their parent or senior loved one at all times, interact with him or her via a skype-like video communication (see image at left), and know, for example, that the senior has taken her pills, has eaten, has not fallen, or has safely gone to sleep.

Recent features on the Oregon pilot project have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Some of the types of sensoring technology available to monitor seniors in their homes have even been described in an e-How article, Sensors to Help Keep the Elderly Safe and At Home.

“Aging in place is starting to hit a tipping point, but we now need to make it mainstream enough where it’s not something you find at the doctor’s office or have to do lots of research on over the Web,” Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, told the Los Angeles Times. The next step, in his view, is to get big players such as Intel and GE involved, with their marketing muscle, to achieve widespread distribution of such technologies through doctors’ offices and home healthcare providers — and eventually to consumers through local stores and online sales.

The hope is that with the assistance of these monitoring technologies, more and more seniors will be able safely to age in place, in their own homes, rather than moving to assisted living or other care facilities.

Experts have increasingly observed that with the coming “gray tsunami” as the Baby Boom Generation ages, there simply will not be enough care facilities available to care for all the seniors, even if they did choose to live in such institutions.

See, for example our previous article, New Virtual Assisted Living Model: Technology + Paid Staff and Volunteers Enable Seniors to Remain in Their Own Homes. In it we described a New Virtual Assisted Living Model, based on the use of technology, being tested by Allen “Chip” Teel, MD, a family physician in Maine, and his findings, described in his book, Alone and Invisible: Averting Disaster in Aging America, that with the rapid aging of our population, there simply will not be enough nursing home facilities available to meet the demand, nor the resources available to cover the cost.

Indeed experts are finding that most seniors prefer independence, and many therefore willingly embrace the concept of being constantly monitored by technology in their own homes.

For example, Dorothy Rutherford, an 86 year old senior, who is one of 480 participants in the pilot programs being conducted by the Oregon Center for Aging & Technology, told the LA Times, “It [the monitoring technology] really gives you a sense of security. In a way, I know that there is something out there taking care of me.”

Being able to stay in her own home is her primary goal. “I’ve been here [in her own home] for 24 years,” she said. “I don’t want to go somewhere else. I don’t want to be under somebody else’s thumb, and I don’t want to live in assisted living or a retirement home.”

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Copyright © 2011 Care-Help LLC

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