To age in place is a goal for many people. A definition of this is “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level”. There may become a time in your life where being able to live independently may not be possible because of a future health issue or disability. This transition can be difficult as even though your needs may have changed, this does not mean you want to lose your autonomy or independence. This is where technology could play an important role in improving an older persons ability to manage independently for longer.
For example, voice-assist technologies like the Amazon Echo (more commonly known as Alexa), Google Home, Siri etc. are likely to play a bigger role in helping people age in place. For people who may not be as mobile as they used to be, have difficulty navigating their house or need prompting to take medication etc. voice assist technologies could help. These devices have the ability to link with other household devices enabling someone to control lights, heating and cooling via heat pumps or air conditioners, set reminders to take medication, or call family or friends, or even emergency services if needed, all by simply asking it to do so.
Smart technology like sensors are what some consider “monitored independence”. Sensors can be used in the home to monitor potential falls out of bed, movement around the home (or lack of), and when someone enters to leaves the house. Unusual activity could then alert a neighbour, friend or family member to call in and check everything is OK. If you do not like the idea of sensors but are worried about the risks of falls, there are also wrist bands designed to detect falls and send an alert to a family member or friend.
There are a number of other technology available including:
- Mobility aids to help older people navigate their house safely,
- Wireless technology that allows older patients to get medical treatment without leaving the home,
- GPS, Bluetooth, cellular connectivity from wearable devices to mobile phones
- Smartphone monitoring apps
Technology can not only offer the tools older people need to continue to live at home, but also newfound confidence and connected-ness with family and friends who perhaps do not live close by. Changes in technology are making ageing in place a viable option for an increasing number of people, it will be interesting to see what new technology is developed in the future to help people remain at home.