New Technologies Are Improving the Lives of Seniors

(The Dallas Morning News/MCT) —

If Betty Lewis falls at the Edgemere senior living community, a pendant she wears around her neck will alert the staff. The device picks up the motion of the fall and notifies staff members at the North Dallas facility so Lewis doesn’t have to hit the alert button.

The device also will tell the Edgemere staff the general location of where she has fallen.

“The pendant will pick up the arc of that fall,” said John Falldine, Edgemere managing director. “It sends the same signal to us as though the resident had hit the button.”

That gives comfort to Lewis, 90. “It serves the purpose that I need,” she said.

Edgemere’s pendant-alert system is one of many technologies that are changing the lives of seniors and their caregivers for the better.

“It will change the (senior-living) industry in that it will help residents, it will help families and it will help businesses like Edgemere extend residents’ independence,” Falldine said.

“In the past,” he said, “about all you had to do to extend independence was ambulation devices. If a resident is not as sure on their feet, you can get a walker, you can get a wheelchair, you can get motorized carts.”

Today, it’s much more than that.

At a July conference in Dallas of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, exhibitors included companies that sold telephones for seniors with hearing loss, and “telemedicine” providers that help patients share vital data with their doctor from their home.

“Technology is a new frontier as far as having support to ensure that people can age successfully,” said Sandy Markwood, chief executive of the association. “It’s not a replacement for friends, family and community support, but it is a great augmentation to that.”

The business potential is huge.

“We are a society that is growing older by the minute,” according to Semico Research Corp., a Phoenix-based semiconductor marketing and research company. “By 2030, there will be over 72 million people over the age 65 in North America alone. And one thing is certain: None of the elderly wants to end up in a nursing home.”

Most of us want to grow old in our homes, surrounded by our families and friends and living a normal life.

“Technology is how we can enable those 72 million people to accomplish this goal,” Semico said in a report it issued last year.

“The aging-in-place market will see revenues over $30 billion by 2017,” Semico said. “Almost 70 percent of the over 120 million unit shipments will come from wellness peripherals like glucose meters, blood pressure monitors and smart scales.”

This booming market includes such things as:

– Wearable and embedded devices that can monitor, record and transmit health information to physicians.

– “Intelligent” mobility aids such as autonomous wheelchairs or robotic walkers.

– Devices that dispense medication, provide reminders and monitor adherence.

– Sensory stimulation devices to improve a senior’s balance.

– Technology-enhanced memory aids and GPS-based anti-wandering systems.

– Personal emergency-response systems, such as Lewis’s pendant.

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