Imagine a world where, when you awake, lights slowly come up to simulate dawn to prevent the winter blues. A device in your toilet measures your urine output and whether you've had a bowel movement.
Your toothbrush reminds you to brush your teeth. In the kitchen, coffee and your morning medication, as well as a banana or oatmeal, wait for you on the counter. If you forget to turn off the stove, it goes off automatically.
You cue up your kitchen device, which proceeds to inform you about your daily appointments and reminds you to take your morning medication.
Meanwhile, your blood pressure, pulse, and other readings are being recorded. If anything out of the ordinary happens, such as a fall or a spike in blood pressure, data are transmitted to your physician instantly.
You don’t really need imagination because every single one of those technologies is already here. Although they aren’t widely used yet, more and more households and senior living communities are already adopting them.
Senior Living Safety Technology
Senior Living Communities, such as The Esquiline, already offer free wi-fi, an emergency response system, call buttons, monitors, and an extensive security system for residents in independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing.
These technological safety devices are already being utilized in senior living communities:
- Medication dispensing robots will dispense accurate doses so nurses don’t have to measure.
- In many skilled nursing and assisted living communities, medical staff record resident reports via technological devices that ask specific questions. Unusual conditions are documented electronically, then collected to give to the patient’s family.
- Persons with dementia wear unobtrusive devices with GPS to track them if they leave the grounds. Some of these devices also automatically lock certain doors when the patient is near or set off an alarm if the patient attempts to pass.
- In memory care buildings, patients will set off an alarm connected to their mattress if they attempt to leave their beds during the night.
- Skilled nursing communities attach sensors to pads placed next to a person’s bed so if they fall out, the staff will know immediately.
- Monitoring systems not only detect when a fall occurs, but if a person’s gait changes.
- Telemedicine is already being practiced in remote locations. Now, some senior living communities are offering it to reduce visits to the emergency room. Implementers are finding it especially helpful for people with depression.
Personal Safety Technology
Many of the technological safety innovations presently offered in senior living communities have been expanded to or got their start at home. Safety tech available for anyone includes:
- Download a smartphone app, such as Medisafe Medication Reminder, to remind you when to take your medications. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can put your medications in the Tabtime Vibe Vibrating Pill Timer Reminder. Each compartment beeps with a different tone or vibrates when it’s time to take your medications.
- If you tend to forget your medical history, like many of us over the age of 50, you can download an app, such as MyChart, which also schedules prescription refills and contacts your clinic. An alternative is to wear a medic alert bracelet, which stores data on your medical history and current medications.
- If you’ve ever needed professional medical advice immediately, the Doctor on Demand app lets you speak to doctors and psychiatrists remotely. Fees are charged for the service..
- Track a person’s daily routine on your computer using wireless sensors. Depending on where sensors are placed, you can detect if a person opens the refrigerator or a pill bottle. Remote caregivers can opt to be alerted by phone, email or text if there are any disruptions.
- BioStamp uses wireless sensors applied via a bandaid-type device to measure pulse, hydration, body temperature, brain activity and more.
- Red Cross First Aid App contains first-aid information that can help anyone.
- An automatic stove shut-off device can prevent fires for the forgetful.
- Some LG televisions offer an interface that browses the web, uses video chat, accesses email, plays games, and gets medication reminders. It can be programmed to follow a schedule so the caregiver can check on their loved ones during certain times of the day or people are reminded of their medications if they get too caught up in the big game.
- If your vision is decreasing, there are numerous talking watches now available, which will give you the time of day, weather, directions and more.
- Siri and Cortana are two of the best-known voice-recognition interfaces. You can ask them questions, get directions, call for help, and text, email or call friends or family. A host of similar interfaces is being developed with even greater capabilities.
- Smart doorbells and security systems can do everything from showing who’s at your front door to calling 911 in the event of a break-in.
- In Japan, carebots take care of older people because of cultural taboos. The robots can not only get food or turn off the lights, they can help feed and bathe people and perform other activities of daily living (ADLs).
- At Cornell University, as part of a class project, students developed safety-related technology specifically for older adults. It includes devices to prevent hypothermia and falls, as well as a lightweight, high-tech wheelchair.
In the end, technology is only a tool to make life better for people. It may help us improve many aspects of our lives, but it should always be human-focused.
“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” - Historian Arthur Schlesinger