Caring for seniors can be challenging and costly, which can take a toll on caregivers and relatives alike. However, in the current technological landscape there are many emerging technologies that can make senior care less stressful and expensive. The convergence of senior care and technology will make it easier for seniors to go on living their day-to-day lives in their current homes, otherwise known as aging in place.
Studies have shown that seniors overwhelmingly prefer the idea of aging in place as opposed to moving into an assisted living facility or retirement community. One American study puts the percentage of adults 65+ who want to remain at home at 87%. It’s clear that this is becoming an increasingly popular choice among seniors, as it’s more comfortable and familiar for them to stay in their community.
In Canada, companies like Stantec predict that improved technology in the senior care space will result in the ‘distributed care’ model. Instead of living in large, long-term care facilities in the suburbs, seniors could stay in their own communities and residences which are connected to an ‘internet of care’. This would strike a balance between helping the seniors stay comfortable in their communities, and providing a way for caregivers and relatives to monitor their wellness and health. With the rapidly advancing technology in the smart home industry, the idea of a distributed care model is becoming more accessible than ever.
Internet-connected smart home technologies have the potential to make day-to-day life much simpler for seniors, their caregivers, and the family members looking after them.
Companies like Nest provide a variety of useful smart home tools, like thermostats, smoke alarms, and cameras that can be controlled and monitored remotely. All of these devices can be accessed by caregivers on their smartphones, which makes it easier to look after seniors even from a distance. Similar organizations like Alarm.com offer home systems and sensors that provide a more in-depth way to monitor seniors’ activity patterns and send alerts in times of emergency.
Other companies like MedMinder offer digital medication dispensers which dispense pills on a programmed schedule. The device provides multiple visual and auditory reminders for the user to take their medication, and loved ones can even record their own custom reminder message. If the user doesn’t take the medication, the device notifies all caregivers via text, email, or phone.
Many other technologies exist that can be used to make seniors’ lives easier, including house cleaning robots, visual doorbells for the hearing impaired, reminder systems for those that suffer from memory loss, and many more. Smart home technology is still improving, but it is already making aging in place look more attractive and affordable than many long-term care facilities.
When examining the cost of long-term senior care in Ontario, the cost of “heavy care” spaces is around $3,400/month. With these costs expected to rise even higher in the future, aging in place using smart home technologies will likely become more popular as its affordability continues to increase. Estimates show that home care technology can be as much as 84% cheaper than the cost of an assisted living facility.
Using a combination of smart home technologies, wearables, and sensors, aging in place has the potential to provide a similar level of care to what residents would receive in some assisted living facilities. It also provides the ability for caregivers and family members to have remote access to these devices, something which is not traditionally available in such facilities. These senior care technologies have the potential to provide major cost savings for families, and these savings are likely to continue to grow in the future as better technology becomes available.
While aging in place may seem like a very attractive option, it may not be feasible for all seniors. Some seniors that need constant medical care will likely need to move to a long-term care facility. Others that are older and too weak to do everyday tasks are also likely to benefit more from the constant care provided by a nursing home. Those that live in areas with poor internet access will have a hard time using smart home technologies that require a constant connection. Additionally, some seniors would likely benefit from a sense of community in a senior living facility that they don’t have in their current area.
While there are these seniors who would likely benefit more from moving to a retirement or nursing home, for many others aging in place is a fantastic option. For those who would prefer to remain in their current community and home, current and emerging technologies are making this more feasible and more affordable. Caregivers and relatives also have better access to monitoring tools to ensure their loved ones are safe and healthy. Many seniors may have to make the move to a nursing home eventually, but in the meantime they can continue living their day-to-day lives with the use of technology.