With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, the age demographic in the United States is rapidly changing. People 65 years and older will represent 21.7 percent of the U.S. population in 2040, up from 14.1 percent in 2013, the Administration on Aging (AA) estimates. The AA also reports that “about 28% (12.5 million) of non-institutionalized older persons live alone” and “almost half of older women (46%) age 75+ live alone.”
“People don’t want to go to nursing homes—they want to age in place” says Dr. Jean Coppola, associate professor of Information Technology and director of the Pace University Gerontechnology Program. “They want to be with their families, and they’re adamant about that.”
As the number of older Americans living alone increases, and the average family size decreases, the ratio of potential caregivers to each senior subsequently drops. “The care givers—there are not enough of them,” she says. “They are over-burdened and they are stressed out.”
How can technology help adult children and caretakers face the challenge of helping elderly loved ones age safely? One solution, says Coppola, is the use of ambient intelligence which allows more and more families to monitor the health and wellness of their elderly loved ones remotely. With ambient intelligence “families can inconspicuously look to see that mom or dad is getting up at the same time every day, took a shower, made the coffee, and maybe if they have cognitive impairment, didn’t go out the door,” Coppola says.
Innovators in gerontechnology are providing much needed support to overextended caregivers by developing apps, software and wearables aimed at improving the quality of life, health and safety of people aging at home.
“We’ve just started,” says Coppola of the market of gerontechnology products. “Everyone is seeing the need. It is going to be an explosion in the United States.”
Below we take a look at five companies focused on developing technologies to aid the elderly and their caregivers:
An automated intelligent monitoring caregiving platform—or virtual caregiver—Care Angel has guided conversations with seniors and, like Siri, turns their vocal responses into data. The program conducts daily check-ins by calling a senior’s landline or cell phone. According to Care Angel’s founder Wolf Shlagman, “an older loved one simply answers either a land or cell phone and ‘Angel’ asks questions related to physical and mental wellbeing that are automatically translated into real-time and actionable data and alerts.”
The questions—such as “did you take your medication today?”—identify “developments that threaten wellbeing and independence” of seniors aging at home. If it detects cause for concern, Care Angel alerts caregivers via app, text message or phone.
Care Angel has launched an invitation-only beta version of the app. For more information, or to be added to the waitlist, visit http://www.careangel.com.
Amulyte has reimagined the traditional personal emergency response system (PERS). Unlike the typical PERS pendant, Amulyte works anywhere, not just the home. When a user activates the “help” button, Amulyte alerts family members or caregivers, rather than emergency medical services, via phone call, text or email. Seniors can even talk to their caretakers directly through the pendant’s speaker and microphone. Additionally, Amulyte monitors activity levels and sends a daily activity recap to keep loved ones informed about activity patterns.
Amulyte is available for pre-order for $149. There is also a $29/month service fee. For more information visit http://www.amulyte.com.
According to the Center for Disease Control, “among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.” There are many fall detection systems on the market today, but most, if not all, rely on wearable technology.
Unlike its competitors, Emerald doesn’t require a wearable device. Much like a wireless router, it emits wireless signals throughout an entire house. The device, developed by the folks over at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, “tracks the 3D motion of a person from the radio signals reflected off [his/her] body,” detecting “the movement pattern associated with a fall” with up to 97 percent accuracy in the first minute. This accuracy increases if the fall victim remains on the floor. When Emerald detects a fall, it alerts caregivers by text, phone or email.
Additionally, Emerald claims it can “help predict when a person’s risk of fall is increasing” by collecting data on changes in mobility. Caregivers can access information about their loved one’s mobility and have the option of being alerted when activity levels drop below average.
Emerald has not yet launched. For more information visit http://www.emeraldforhome.com.
Many products on the market aim to prevent or detect falls, but ActiveProtective’s wearable airbag technology helps reduce the trauma of falls when they do happen. The wearable garment uses 3D motion sensors to detect when a human fall is in progress at which point it deploys a 2-inch air cushion around the hips, reducing impact force by 90 percent.
Active Protective has not yet launched. For more information visit http://www.activeprotect.co/.
HomeHero is a senior care marketplace for reliable in-home caretakers. The website provides listings for 1,500 Heroes, each of whom has undergone “a rigorous screening process that includes an entrance exam, in-person interview and reference check from past employers.” Each Hero has a profile listing pertinent information including years of experience, list of caregiving skills, whether he/she has a smartphone and car and a short video introduction. HomeHero guarantees clients will be matched with a caretaker within 12 hours, provided with an experienced care manager and have access to 24/7 customer support. By leveraging technology to replace overhead costs, HomeHero claims to save the average client “$350 per month compared to traditional home care agencies.”
HomeHero serves the greater Los Angeles, San Diego County and San Francisco Bay areas. Rates for Heroes start at $18/hour or $180 a day. For more information visit http://www.homehero.org.
Abby Ballou is the managing editor of MedTech Boston. She has a B.A. and M.Phil in English literature from NYU and the CUNY Graduate Center, respectively. When she isn't writing and editing for MedTech Boston, Abby enjoys reading, rock climbing, watching classic movies and listening to opera.
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