The use of smart technology is something most of us use on a regular basis. We have smart phones, smart cars, smart homes and even smart thermostats. It’s a constant in our lives that has helped us improve our health, control our energy costs and save time.
But this technology is not something our older loved ones grew up with or used during their careers. And, while the digital age is often perceived as the purview of youth, these innovative tools are becoming invaluable to seniors and their caregivers as we work to help them lead healthier and more connected lives.
As more seniors opt to age in place, we are relying more on the digital age to help us optimize home healthcare, communications and even monitor heart rates, doctors’ visits and sleep quality. As this technology progresses, ensuring our aging loved ones have access to a smart phone, tablet or wearable device ensures they are in constant communication with loved ones, caregivers and medical professionals.
In recent polling, most Americans state they would prefer to remain in their homes as they age. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) says that figure has remained well above 70% for more than a decade and is closing in on 90% as newer surveys are taken.
In addition to at-home caregivers, technology is one of the best ways to facilitate independent living. For example, wearable sensors can monitor seniors’ motion, location and even their daily routines. This can provide up-to-date information that their adult children, for example, can access to ensure their parent hasn’t fallen or forgotten to take their medication.
This type of technology is essential for long-distance caregivers who cannot always be present in their seniors’ daily lives. Knowing that your loved one hasn’t fallen out of bed or left the stovetop on can offer a peace of mind that previously wasn’t available to the families of seniors who preferred to live at home.
Promoting Emotional Heath
Another aspect of aging in place that may be overlooked by the families of seniors is the social isolation and loneliness some seniors face when they choose to stay at home.
While staying at home is probably the ideal situation for most older Americans, it can result in a lack of social connections, particularly if the senior has lost his or her spouse or has physical limitations that prevent participation in activities outside of the home.
To help combat this isolation, some home care organizations have begun equipping the seniors who use their services with tablets or other devices that give seniors access to video calling and chat features so they can stay in touch with their loved ones or care providers.
Seniors can also use devices to develop exercise programs and, of course, these devices can be regularly used for entertainment and educational purposes. Streaming video and listening to audiobooks are great ways to pass the time and help older Americans stay emotionally active.
In addition to staying connected to loved ones and caregivers, tablets can also be used to link older adults to doctors and other resources in their community that can help them with mental health issues.
Technology is also being used effectively to help seniors increase their accessibility to care. For older Americans living at home, technology can be used to match them with the appropriate care staff or enable them to stay in touch with their physicians and caregivers.
Family caregivers can also use digital devices to manage their loved one’s appointments, medication and doctor’s visits. Many families now use web cams as a means to communicate with their older loved one, but these can also be used to view their senior’s home if they suspect an accident or medical emergency has occurred.
In the home care industry, the use of technology can not only help caregivers assess the needs of their clients, it can also help them stay connected to the office. Since most of a caregiver’s job is performed at the homes of clients, caregivers are now using tablets, phones and other digital devices to manage their time, track their clients and even facilitate training.
But, as with all new technology, caregivers and those who work in the home care industry should remember that there is still no substitute for human interaction.
The digital age is revolutionizing the way we help care for our older loved ones and offers great potential as we help our parents or grandparents remain at home. Technology can help promote a senior’s independence, assist in their care and even help their caregivers manage their time, but it’s not a magic bullet.
The challenge we face is how to seamlessly incorporate the use of this technology while still providing the human interaction that our seniors need to lead healthy lives. Some seniors may also resist the use of modern technology, making it less likely that they will use this technology in their homes.
Older Americans can benefit from new technological advancements to be healthier and happier at home, but this progress should be used to enhance rather than to replace social connection.
Caring Senior Service founder & CEO Jeff Salter began his career in senior care in 1991 working for a home health care agency in Odessa, Texas. Four months later, he started his own senior care service to provide seniors with the non-medical care they need to stay at home. In 2003, Caring Senior Service began offering franchises and today has locations in more than 50 markets nationwide. For more information on Caring Senior Service, please visit https://www.caringseniorservice.com/.