When older adults experience medical complications, an additional side effect is decreased independence. Older adults are often taken to caregiving facilities, where they depend on external aid and support. Even when they continue to live in their homes, frequent medical visits can become disruptive and overturn their daily lives.

Luckily, digital healthcare solutions are paving the way for increased independence among the elderly. New technologies assess and monitor health from the comfort of the home, allowing people to continue caring for themselves, maintain their day-to-day hobbies, and live in the home of their choice.

Here are some of the ways digital solutions bolster the independence of older adults:

Supporting hobbies and daily routines

Remote care technologies enable older adults to live without disruption, whether they want to go on a walk, take care of the garden, or host family members for visits. Because a decline in memory is one of the most common concerns among the elderly -and one of the biggest factors leading to decreased independence- healthcare technologies are emerging that specifically target cognitive health.

MyndYou, for example, connects older adults with remote therapists and uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to monitor their cognitive and behavioral functioning, both within and between sessions. This reduces the need to drive to in-person therapy appointments while helping prevent a decline in cognition and preserve routine independence. As a result, older adults are able to continue their daily routines uninterrupted without compromising on their cognitive health.

Aiding with reminders

Other technologies address the concern of cognitive decline by providing reminders–particularly when it comes to medication. Some, like Medisafe Medication Reminder, take the form of smartphone apps. The easy-to-use app helps the elderly by tracking prescriptions and reminding people when they need to refill.

Another technology, MedMinder, is a smart pill dispenser that sends out digital reminders using a series of lights and beeps. The device can even be used to make phone calls and issue medical alerts in the event of an emergency.

Together, these tools and others ensure that the elderly are adequately addressing their medical needs–all from the home environment.  

Making homes safer and smarter

Other technologies help older adults by letting them remain longer in the home of their choice. Home disaster prevention technologies help older adults stay safe from physical accidents.

One such technology is Inirv React, which automatically turns off stoves when not in use. The Kickstarter project, which is still in its beta stage, keeps people safe by letting them control the stove from their smartphones and by reacting to levels of smoke, natural gas, and motion in the kitchen.

An even more ambitious project, called the Aware Home, is equipped with various sensors and data analytics tools to monitor the physical health of the resident. Developed by researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, the 5,000 square foot home includes a smart hallway that uses gait-sensing technology to analyze residents’ walking patterns. By indicating the steadiness of a person’s walk or changes in his or her walking patterns, the smart hallway can determine whether that person might need medical attention and alert family members and caregivers accordingly.

Providing companionship

Companionship is an important part of the mental health and wellbeing of older adults. New technologies provide home companions and assistants in the form of advanced robots.

Support robots are increasingly popular in Japan, where more than 28% of the population is 65 and over. These robots are helping seniors stay happy, active, and social, enabling them to lead less solitary lives and boosting their mental health as a result.

The Care-o-bot, which has already been installed in several German assisted living facilities, brings the elderly food and drinks from the kitchen and engages them in memory games to keep their minds sharp. The smart robot moves around independently, helps the elderly with chores around the house, and even makes sure they drink enough water each day.

Another companion robot is BUDDY, which provides social interaction and assistance. The robot detects unusual activity, such as falls, provides reminders about medications and upcoming events, eases loneliness with regular communication, and even connects residents with communication technology such as Skype or Facetime.

Keeping family members in the loop

IoT technologies that target health–such as fitness tracking devices–also help older adults safely go about their daily activities by keeping family members informed.

Devices like FitBit can be connected to family members’ smartphones, enabling children, grandchildren, or caregivers to monitor older adults’ health without interrupting their day-to-day lives. This way, older adults can continue to go about their hobbies while passively keeping family members aware and engaged.

At the end of the day, these technologies are about enabling independence by making life easier–all while bringing peace of mind to family members and caregivers.

 

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "How Digital Healthcare Solutions Can Help Older Adults Stay Independent," in Medicalopedia, January 4, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/8169/how-digital-healthcare-solutions-can-help-older-adults-stay-independent/].