Part Two: New Boons to Aging in Place
“I had to replace all kinds of lights this week,” a father told his daughter when they spoke on the weekend. “It seems every bulb in this 50-year-old house blew at the same time, including the floodlights.”
She listened to his recital with growing concern and only one thought in mind: “Dad, were you climbing on a ladder to change these bulbs?” “Yes, but only a few steps. No big deal,” he replied. She explained that while he was in good shape for his age, elder bodies, like old light bulbs, can suddenly falter without warning — and ladders are dangerous at any age. He wouldn’t hear it, declaring he was fit as a fiddle and she was worrying needlessly.
Aging isn’t what it used to be
Granted, this is not your parents’ (or grandparents’) aging process. But as we noted in New Boons to Aging in Place / Part 1, more than half of those 80-plus fall every year — and they’re not climbing on ladders. What’s the solution? Discreet elder tech.
Here are four leading-edge solutions that reverse mortgage professionals may want to suggest, as appropriate, to prospects, clients, family members and other seniors in your sphere of influence.
PERS for the home
Consider EchoCare, which describes itself as “an elderly care home observer.” This non-intrusive PERS (personal emergency response system) issues automatic alerts for safety and emergency situations — and includes a disruptive fall detector with a very low rate of false alarm. The best feature for seniors who bristle at wearing a PERS pendant, watch or other device? It’s non-wearable.
Once installed in a standard-size senior apartment, EchoCare continuously monitors four essential body indicators (location, posture, motion, respiration) using a low-power radio frequency sensor that does not compromise the resident’s privacy. When the system determines an emergency situation has occurred, it sends an alert to the designated contact person. In addition to being a resource for falls, EchoCare also recognizes situations such as sleep stress (e.g., sleep apnea), prolonged time in the bathroom, hyperventilation, and no time in the kitchen (is the senior eating properly?).
Diagnosis before disease
Some seniors might not mind a PERS, wearable or home-based, but may object to going to the doctor if they feel fine. Iowa startup ITR Diagnostics is addressing non-invasive medicine by developing digital biomarker panels to help physicians and researchers identify and monitor patients with neurological diseases (such as Parkinson’s disease). During an annual checkup, doctors will be able to detect serious disease years before it develops.
Early detection and diagnosis, especially with neurologic conditions such as Parkinson’s, which are often not diagnosed until late in disease progression, will allow people to make changes sooner that can benefit their health and overall quality of life.
Data-driven support for families
What if an elder’s family members need support? MyndYou is a mobile platform that monitors cognitive, physiological and behavioral parameters to provide data-driven dementia care insights.
Its first feature is MyndYourDrive, designed to alert families of people with early stage cognitive deterioration about when someone needs to relinquish the car keys. As we’ve explored, giving up the independence of driving can be devastating for seniors. Yet with or without cognitive impairment, seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of 7 to 10 years, according to the AAA (American Automobile Association). Now families will have data to back up their concerns.
Like hearing aids for the eyes
Finally, NuEyes has developed smartglasses to help the visually impaired see again. While not safe to use on the road, NuEyes (built by two veterans using technologies originally designed for military use) works with someone’s existing prescription eyeglasses and functions similar to a tablet or smartphone, streaming images via a built-in digital camera. NuEyes look somewhat like VR (virtual reality) goggles — and to a person with low vision, may feel like that when they first put them on and experience the joy of seeing again.
It may not be possible to keep determined seniors from performing the household tasks or living the lifestyle they’ve managed successfully for seven, eight, or nine decades. But at least the support to monitor such activity is becoming available for families’ peace of mind.