Technology Connects, Protects Seniors
Products for an aging -- but plugged-in -- population address brain fitness, social networking, personal monitoring, and the concerns of caregivers.
By Michael Greene, InformationWeek March 23, 2010 URL: http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=224200102
Technology emerged as a major theme in the 2010 Aging in America conference in Chicago from March 15-18, the largest annual national gathering of senior service providers.
Products displayed at this year's event, and at the follow up Boomer Business Summit on March 19, reflect advancements in the fields of brain fitness, social networking, home monitoring, and caregiving.
Perhaps the greatest fear related to aging is loss of cognitive abilities. Studies suggest that seniors who consistently participate in mentally stimulating leisure activities maintain higher levels of intellectual ability and significantly reduce the risk of dementia.
Dakim, one of the industry's leading providers of turnkey hardware/software solutions for brain fitness exercises at senior facilities has announced a new software-based product for home use.
According to Charles Robinson, Regional VP of the Midwest, BrainFitness software shipping in early April is superior to typical stimulating activities such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku because it crosstrains the brain in six cognitive dimensions. These include: long- and short-term memory, computation, visual spatial orientation and critical thinking.
Perhaps most importantly, the program tracks and adjusts to the senior's level of mental ability, thereby keeping the activity engaging. The CD-based product is listed for $349 and requires the user to have only minimal experience with a traditional PC or Mac interface.
Home and personal monitoring also continue to advance. BeClose has announced a product that connects motion sensors throughout a home with automatic alerts sent to family or other caregivers when unexpected patterns are detected (lack of movement throughout the day, excessive bed rest, etc.). A Web portal allows customized tracking of different types of events with automated alerts for each interested family member or caregiver.
Other companies focus on different slices of the same space by placing sensors directly on a person's body. Wellcore's product is a clip-on device about the size of a small beeper.
HaloMonitoring uses a band around the chest or waist. Unlike many remote alerts that require a manually press of a button to notify others to a problem, these products use accelerometers to analyze movement and automatically determine if a fall has occurred.
Given the reluctance of many seniors to let others know about accidents, even when they are injured, automated notifications can be a lifesaver. Gaining a senior's compliance to wear a monitoring device can be a challenge, however.
For families involved in the day-to-day activities involved with caregiving, there are a number of new tools, such as eCareDiary.com to help in the tracking and coordination of responsibilities relating to long term care. Developed by people who personally faced the challenges of caring for aging family members suffering from debilitating disease, the site provides a set of simple tools.
They include: the sharing of health related documents and a calendar that enables family members to track appointments and key medical information. Discussion boards and blogs that allow caregivers to connect with each other, share tips, and provide support during what can be a long and emotionally challenging period.