Older Adult Personal Safety Tech

By Patrick Baker ~

Longer lifespans allow us to learn and experience more of everything life has and enjoy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. Longevity also has risks – physical and cognitive – that may require additional attention and support over time.

The majority of adults surveyed by AARP and others indicate that older adults want to live in their homes for as long as possible before moving into community settings. Technology for fall detection and medical alerts, maintaining daily routines, and care maintenance systems can provide older adults with a greater sense of safety and security and help families and caregivers stay informed of their elder’s well-being. Let’s review some of the options available.

Fall Detection and Prevention

Various wearables and stationary smart devices can alert caregivers and family members if the person in their care has fallen. Quick intervention can improve longer-term health outcomes for someone who falls, but only if families and care providers invest in systems that alert caregivers right away.

The Apple Watch responds with an on-screen alert if it senses you’ve fallen and lets you place an emergency call (SOS) or respond that you’re OK. If you lose consciousness during a fall or don’t respond after a minute, the watch begins a 30-second countdown and then will call for emergency assistance using your iPhone.

The Timex Senior Connect smartwatch has similar fall-detection capabilities and an SOS button. If the watch senses you’ve fallen, Timex Senior Connect displays two choices: HELP and I’M OK. You can respond appropriately, or the watch will call your emergency contacts if you don’t respond within one minute. Users can optionally press and hold the SOS button to get emergency assistance.

Walabot was made for bathroom use, where many falls occur. Using a radio frequency (RF) sensor, Walabot calls your emergency contacts when detecting a fall. No fob or pendant required.

Nobi is a smart lamp that uses AI and motion sensing for fall detection and prevention. Nobi markets to assisted living communities and care homes. If a resident falls in their apartment, Nobi immediately contacts staff for emergency assistance, minimizing the time between a fall and receiving care. Nobi will also illuminate a dark room at night when it senses motion, preventing residents from falling on the way to the bathroom or kitchen.

Medical Alert Systems

Medical alert systems from Medical Guardian, LifeFone, Bay Alarm Medical, Lifeline, ADT, and other companies have been around for years. They are the most commonly used personal safety devices for older adults. Typically consisting of a pendant, fob, or wristband and a base station, medical alert systems use a landline, cellular network, or wifi to communicate with a call center or facility staff 24/7.

Medical alert systems use subscription-based services. When an older adult presses the button on a pendant, fob, or wristband, the system makes an emergency call to a call center. An operator will respond verbally over the base station to assess your situation and send help. Some systems have portable GPS-enabled products, too. The equipment is usually free with a subscription.

Some things to look for when selecting a medical alert system include:

  • Clearly defined costs and contracts.
  • A clearly defined subscription cancellation policy.
  • Wearable devices that are water-resistant.
  • Available GPS tracking.

Maintaining Routines and Home Safety

Smart home technology can help older adults maintain routine tasks and a safe home environment. Numerous smart sensors, such as stovetop, oven, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, can sense kitchen fires, water leaks, and other environmental hazards and notify family and caregivers. Digital assistant reminders from Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant are essential for appointments, medication, and prompting for everyday tasks. 

Smart thermostats adapt to their environments and can help save on energy costs. Smart bulbs and plugs can run on routines or use motion sensors so that lighting is always available but used only when needed, saving money and energy.

Telemedicine and Telehealth

Older adults could take advantage of telemedicine and telehealth for numerous doctor and other healthcare appointments during the pandemic without needlessly exposing themselves to the coronavirus. We can still utilize these services, making the difference between some care and no care for rural populations, anyone who can’t travel for medical care and treatment, or immune-compromised persons who want to limit their exposure to others in crowded waiting rooms.

Care Management Solutions

Finally, products and services are available to help families and caregivers manage care for their older adult family members and clients better. Some of their features include:

  • Updates to the family on loved ones’ routines and activities.
  • Direct communication among older adults, caregivers, and their families.
  • Tracking medication consumption.
  • Tracking physical activity.
  • Tracking nutrition and mealtimes.
  • Connecting with smart home devices, wearables, and emergency alert devices, providing additional details about an older adult’s well-being.

Some of the systems and apps in this category are Serenity Engage, Routinify, Stack Care, and Electronic Caregiver. Each has various features like those noted above and requires a monthly subscription.

Numerous available technology solutions can provide older adults with a greater sense of safety and security and help families and caregivers stay informed of their elder’s well-being.

An extended version of this article is available on primeoflifetech.com.

Patrick Baker is an IT consultant and the founder of Prime of Life Tech. To learn more about his services, visit primeoflifetech.com, email info@primeoflifetech.com, or call (720) 319-7145.

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