Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Want to stay in your home? Check out new technology!

Several years ago the Center for Aging Services Technologies, in conjunction with Intel, created a video imagining what digital health and wellness monitoring for senior adults might someday look like. People got excited about this – and kept asking where they could get it.

“It’s all available technology,” says CAST representative and Intel aging technology expert Eric Dishman. “But none of it is readily available today exactly as it is shown in this video.”

That was then.

Today, technology to aide seniors and their caregivers is a fast growing industry. It’s diverse and, if baby boomers are true to form, it will soon be as pervasive as the internet.

Earlier this week a feature story on National Public Radio, “Wired Homes Keep Tabs on Aging Parents” showcased a video monitoring system offered by ResCare, a national in-home care company that provides “telecaregivers” for clients. While it might feel a little invasive at first, the peace of mind provided by having someone visually checking in with a loved one is worth it, at least for the family in the NPR story. Noteworthy as well is the unexpected benefit of this service: social contact and companionship for the elder.

More and more Americans are living longer, healthier lives. Most want to stay in their own homes as long as possible. While this may be our preference, it is often not the optimal situation in light of brain science.

“Our brain is designed for us to be connected to other people – our ‘tribe,’ if you will,” says brain development education consultant Joseph Christensen, founder of Brain Development Etc., and part of the aQuire Training Solutions’ development team. “When we don’t have our tribe around us we are very stressed and don’t know why. Chronic stress, of course, can lead to a host of other problems such as depression, anxiety and social withdrawal.”

Nutrition and exercise are also keys to long, healthy lives – and brains. Social isolation tends to negatively impact these areas as well.

With the ResCare program, even elders living alone at home can gain companionship and human contact. This alone might be the factor that allows them to continue to live in the place of their choice – their home. Certainly combining this program with other home technology programs (like fall detection monitors, medication reminder systems and more), we begin to approach the world where technology, in all its forms, helps us continue to live healthy, productive lives to the end.

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