The newsletter “Aging in Place” recently reported on how constantly evolving technologies will assist people as they grow older allowing them to live better, longer, in their own homes. “Aging in place” is a concept that focuses on developing support systems for people getting older that will allow them to stay and live in their own homes rather than needing to go to expensive assisted living communities or hire live-in help. Numerous recent social research studies have shown that as people get older, they are more likely to stay healthy and independent if they continue to live in their own homes.
Aging in place programs of the future will focus on developing technologies that make it easy for an older person to stay in their own home yet stay connected to friends and social outlets. With the Boomer generation nearing retirement age, the number of Americans 65 and over will soon significantly increase. The market for these technologies will likely grow from its current $2 billion dollar a year market to an over $20 billion market in the near future.
“Aging in Place” newsletter lists four groups of technologies that can do the most to assist both older Americans today and aging Boomers of tomorrow:
1. Communications/engagement: Includes email, online chat, Skype, cell phones, smart phones and tablets, and personal computers. These technologies allow older Americans to stay connected to friends and family at a distance.
2. Home safety/security. These include “smart” house technologies that can deal with vandals, as well as personal health and safety issues. They use sensors, webcams, as well as digital communications to notify someone externally that the senior person could be having a problem.
3. Home health and wellness. Numerous apps have been developed or are in research and development to help older people manage their health effectively. These include TeleHealth and mHealth (mobile health) that can remind someone to take their medication or get to a doctors appointment, help with fitness levels, or even communicate with their doctor or health care practitioner.
4. Learning/social contribution. Many technologies can enable older people to continue to work without leaving the comfort of their home. They can also take classes and do volunteer work online.
In order to make these technologies realistically viable, Laurie Orlov, “aging in place” specialist as well as technology veteran and analyst says they have to meet certain criteria like: technologies have to be intuitive and supported externally; cost to older consumers must be affordable; should be able to interface with pre-existing technologies like Facebook or Skype.