Advances in Technology Will Allow Baby Boomers More Independence As They Age

I have a colleague who lives in Phoenix. Both of her parents, who reside in Minnesota, have Alzheimer’s disease. While they both have severe cognitive limitations, they are physically functional and wish to remain living in the home in which they have lived since they got married in 1956.

When my colleague visits with her parents on the phone, she is able to continue watching and listening to them as they discuss their conversation with her. She purchased a wireless monitoring kit and told her parents the cameras are part of their security system. This technology enables her to observe them as they relax in their recliners in front of the TV or as they sit at their kitchen table having breakfast. The monitors are strategically placed so they can be seen in almost every area of their home.

An article in the Lifestyle Section of the Sunday, December 1, 2013 Arizona Republic (www.news.azcentral.com) highlights the benefits of using technology and gadgets for adults who remain in their own homes as they age. Health care innovators, researchers and educators predict that gadgets will soon turn the home into a medical nanny, keeping tabs on everything from pill taking routines to signs of imminent crisis. They are devices that link people together.

“Over the next few decades, baby boomers will push this technology trend partly both because they are very independent, but also because in the same time frame we’ll see fewer paid and unpaid caregivers,” said Jason Tester, research director for the nonprofit Institute for the Future. He cites a recent AARP report stating that in 2010 there were 7.2 middle-age caregivers for every 80 year old, but by 2050 that number will plummet to 2.9. In this nation there are 78 million baby boomers (those born from 1946-1964) who are facing the prospect of aging with a shrinking population of caregivers.

“With fewer people to watch over tomorrow’s seniors, some will move into digitally connected retirement homes, while others will simply retrofit their own homes,” Tester said. The home will serve as an early detection system. Research shows that even small changes in daily habits can hint at serious problems to come.”

For seniors, the benefits of a smart home are physical and emotional. Aging in place means continuing routines while health data are wirelessly relayed to doctors, caregivers and concerned family. For society, the benefits include significantly reduced health care costs and happier elders.

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