I recently read an interesting article highlighting technology solutions for an aging population. I have never thought specifically about technology that can compensate for the inevitable aging process, but was fascinated by the products that are being introduced. I will most likely be using some of these technologies in the future, so I am thankful that someone is thinking ahead. I want to dedicate this post to highlighting several of these assistive technologies and products, and I’d like to hear from you about those I may have missed.
Care Innovations is a joint venture between Intel and General Electric that focuses on solutions dedicated to aging in place. Telehealth is a big part of the push to enable seniors to stay in their homes instead of being moved to a care facility or a hospital. Technologists from GE, Intel, and others are developing technologies for allowing people to monitor their own health and to work with a remote care provider. Among these technologies are heart rate and blood pressure monitors that transmit information in real time. In the works are systems that automatically notify emergency personnel of a dangerous fall. An overriding goal in all of this research is to develop technologies that are unobtrusive. Simple interactions result in successful and sustained use of the devices or applications.
One of my favorite devices is Liftware. This is a handheld device that can be fitted with a spoon or fork and dampens shaking from essential tremors or other diseases. As the person shakes, the spoon counters by vibrating in the opposite direction. It is shown to remove up to 70 percent of vibrations caused by tremors. I recently had dinner with a wonderful gentleman who had tremors, and I began to wonder how he would ever be able to eat soup. I saw a review on this product two days later and I had my answer. What a wonderful innovation for those suffering from this affliction.
A recent CNN article highlighted assistive devices that aid Alzheimer’s patients and allow them to stay in their homes longer. These include sensors by SmartThings that monitor whether they took their medications, whether they left their home during certain hours, and whether there is smoke in the kitchen or flooding in the laundry room. Such devices are not new, but in these cases they are connected to a wireless hub and alert family members or caregivers about the activity of the resident. As the article points out, one of the unique problems that arise from this technology is whether you alert the resident to the fact that they are being monitored. Well-meaning family members who do not reveal the monitoring are simply trying to keep the resident safe. Granted, this is not spying by the NSA, but there are some delicate privacy issues involved, even on a family level.
Personally, I am excited about the use of assistive technologies, particularly when it allows people to remain independent longer and out of invasive care. Would I trust my son to monitor me when I get to the stage where I can no longer be trusted to make all of my own decisions? Absolutely. I am hoping that by that point he will be able to supplement my Bitcoins with some from his own stash when I accidentally go on a fine chocolate buying spree.
Do you have any experience with assistive technologies? Do you rely on apps or devices to remind you about daily tasks or are you helping a loved one to remain independent through technology? I would love to hear from you. I think this will be a growing area of interest.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.