Quick: picture a tech item used by senior citizens. Chances are you imagined the Life Alert device with its well-known tagline, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Or perhaps you thought of very basic cell phones with large buttons for the visually impaired. In general, though, when people think of technology, they think of it as something for the young, not something of use or interest to older people.
That’s a shame, because there are a variety of tech for seniors that can enrich their lives, keep them safe, and provide peace of mind for their loved ones. In some cases, the added security the technology provides can help seniors remain independent and in their own homes for longer. Take a look at some newer options for older people.
Personal Emergency Response Systems
Life Alert is only one of many personal emergency response systems (PERS) available. These systems are invaluable for seniors who live alone and whose loved ones may not be able to check on them as often as they’d like. Unlike the first generation PERS which were designed for use only in the home, companies like MobileHelp offer systems which can be used in the home or on the go, and which don’t require the user to have a landline phone. The company also offers a pendant with fall detection so that if the wearer is rendered unconscious by a fall, help can be summoned without a button needing to be pressed.
GreatCall offers not only those easy-to-use cell phones for seniors, but urgent response devices that can be worn as a pendant or clipped to clothing. There’s even one that also includes a fitness tracker, for seniors who are active but still appreciate the security of knowing help is just a button press away.
If you have a loved one who is determined to stay in their home, but about whom you’re constantly worried, there are ways to check in without hovering—especially if you’re too far away to visit. Companies like BeClose and Evermind make sensors that can be attached to household items like appliances, furniture, or pill boxes. Loved ones can monitor sensor activity on smartphones. If an elderly parent watches the Price is Right every morning like clockwork, you can choose to receive a notification if a sensor on Dad’s remote control or easy chair hasn’t been activated by a certain time. Lively offers a smart watch with a variety of features, including a medication reminder.
Medication Reminders for Seniors
Because seniors may take a variety of medications at various times, it can be difficult to remember what pills have been taken, and when. Loved ones frequently worry that an older relative has forgotten medication, accidentally doubled a dose, or taken the wrong pill. High-tech medicine minders can relieve these worries.
MedMinder is a digital pill dispenser with a medicine tray that can be filled by a family member or visiting care provider. They can then program the medical schedule online, and monitor medication compliance. When it’s time for a pill, the dispenser will flash, then beep, then issue a message pre-recorded by a care provider to remind the patient. If the three reminders don’t work, the patient and the care provider both get a call. CareZone is a free phone app that allows you to set medication reminders and create a medication list by snapping photos of pill bottles.
Tech for Seniors’ Care Coordination and Social Needs
As any family caregiver knows, a lot goes into providing care for a parent or loved one. The aptly-named website Making Care Easier allows care providers to share information and store it securely, manage the patient’s medication and health information, create a “care team” to share duties, and organize and manage caregiving tasks.
Of course, seniors need more than just to have their physical needs taken care of. They need social contact as well, especially when family members are not around to visit frequently or provide care. Grandcare offers a large touchscreen system that can be used from everything from medication prompts, to video chatting with family, to web-based entertainment.
Don’t overlook devices that are not specifically designed for seniors, but may be very useful to them. Voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home can answer questions, play music, read audiobooks, turn lights on and off, and offer reminders to take medicines or call a family member.
Many family members find that the use of tech devices for their older relatives helps them nag less, relax more, and generally improves the relationship between caregiver and care receiver.