Tech Gadgets for Aging in Place a Reality NowBy Mark Miller, syndicated newspaper columnist, blogger at RetirementRevised.com
Laurie Orlov grew up in the corporate high-tech world, working for 30 years as an information technology executive and later as an analyst for Forrester Research, the respected technology research company. More recently, she has been applying her knowledge to a pressing questions facing baby boomers and seniors: how to age in place safely and successfully.
Last year, Orlov started her own market research firm, Aging in Place Technology Watch, as a way to spotlight technologies and services that can help people live independently as long as possible. She also is studying to become certified in geriatric care management.
Surveys show that most people would prefer to stay where they are as they age. And with residential real estate markets in a deep slump, many people will have no choice but to age in place.
What's more, the coming age wave likely will make aging in place a key component of efforts to contain exploding medical costs at a time when health care delivery systems already are severely strained. Orlov notes that 70 percent of Americans over age 65 will need some form of long-term care in their lifetimes. Assisted living facilities cost an average of $36,000 per year, according to AARP, and most costs are paid out-of-pocket. And an acute increase in demand for care is expected to open a gap in the system's ability to provide services.
Age-related living decisions are urgent not only for today's seniors, but also for baby boomers who are helping their own aging parents manage and make decisions, Orlov says. "Boomers are the first Internet-connected generation, and they will take their tech literacy with them as they consider the issues of aging in place."
In a recent research report, Orlov described a series of technologies that can improve communication and reduce isolation for seniors, and also improve safety through electronic monitoring.
As the market develops, we'll start to see as commonplace products like motion sensors that interact with security systems and alert caregivers when activity isn't detected according to schedule. Automated phone systems will remind people to take their medications -- and family members or caregivers will be able to help seniors manage their care long-distance over video-enabled web connections.
Much of the technology Orlov envisions already is available -- but the market is "largely unexplored and poorly understood" by consumers, she notes. "It's not really visible as a technology category, and it's not well marketed. She also concedes that some technologies are still immature and too complicated for most consumers to use.