Jess Stonefield is passionate about senior longevity and the concept of “equitable equity”—spreading the wealth to all levels of our society. She serves as communications expert for Senior Living Fund.
The trend to use technology innovations to help seniors live longer, more fulfilling lives is catching steam around the world. Generally known as the Aging 2.0 movement, it holds huge promise for seniors, especially when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, though we may not always associate technology with America’s expanding senior population, the IoT—along with a new round of connected wearables, portables and emergency support systems—is about to change that.
The IoT is the name given to the expanding network of smart devices currently connected together in the digital landscape. Just as Google’s Nest allows us to monitor our homes remotely, numerous new technologies promise to connect seniors to care teams and other life-saving processes that can make their lives easier, safer and more enjoyable. Tech company Cisco estimates that by 2020, the IoT will expand to include 50 billion smart objects. Seniors will likely benefit more than any other group.
Seven years ago, seven able adults were available for every senior in need of care. Fast forward to 2030, and that ratio will likely drop to just four to one. By 2050, it will dip to just three to one. Deemed the caregiving cliff by AARP, the trend describes our country’s current plight, as mass numbers of baby-boom seniors who need care begin to outnumber those able to help them.
Enter the IoT. Through a connected digital mesh, a new cornucopia of smart devices will help monitor, alert, track and support the growing senior community, whether they are living in smart senior communities or their own family homes. Used well, the devices could keep seniors connected and safe—and help alleviate some the stress on caregivers supporting them. Below are a few ways the IoT is advancing senior longevity.
Wearable Tech and Implant Technology
Cardiac and biometric sensors, as well as smart glucometers can track vital signs, sending emergency emails or texts in real time to care providers if something is off track with their loved one. Wearables can detect things such as low levels of movement and abnormal sleeping habits, allowing care teams to track behavior patterns and check on patients if needed. Pacemakers and some glucometers can even be implanted directly into the senior’s body to track vitals, ensuring that the tech is always accurate.
Because they are connected, the data from wearables can be sent to the cloud, then analyzed and measured to find trends and insights for doctors and family members. Over time, for instance, doctors might notice a decline in sleeping or exercise, or notice that insulin levels rise or drop at certain points in the day, meaning a change in medication regimen is required.
Portable machines, now so small they can be stored at home, can perform blood and urine tests, allowing seniors to remain in the comfort of home while performing regular workups. Powered by the IoT, they can then store, process and send the data to the senior’s care team in real time for analysis.
Personal responders have been around for quite a while, but the IoT has made them even stronger and smarter than before. For instance, today’s responders can detect and alert family members if those with dementia have moved outside of their specified and protected living area. They can also offer navigational assistance for patients who struggle with Alzheimer’s to ensure they make it home safe and sound. Remote monitoring for caregivers also makes it possible to keep close watch on loved ones while working or running daily errands.
Smart Homes and Communities
Each of the IoT technologies mentioned above may also be utilized within homes and senior communities to help caregivers provide better care to those you love. With the IoT, data can be streamed to an analytics dashboard for nurses and doctors, who can monitor patients from any location in real time. For instance, products such as MimoCare send an alert if a resident may have fallen, is wandering, or experiences an abnormal change in daily routine.
The IoT holds so much potential for our society as a whole, but most especially for our senior community. Used well, it can enhance independence, longevity and well-being, for our seniors, while simultaneously easing the stress on those that love them.