How Tech is Transforming Lives

“Don’t disturb me now, I’m doing my online banking”

In 2016, a digitally savvy senior might well say this to her visiting children as she efficiently handles laptop financial transactions that once required a trip to the bank. Second only to email, online banking is extremely popular amongreverse mortgage news Dutch elders, according to a recent survey, which found that 75% of seniors use a computer (desktop or laptop) daily. More than half (57%) use either a smartphone or tablet every day.

Surfing the web is also a popular pastime, with app use far down the list. The researchers posit that the trio of favored digital functions fill a need “for which there are no good alternatives in the analog world.”

The digital answer to dementia 

Indeed, as digital devices and the Internet continue to mature, ease of use and innovation open the door to unlimited possibilities for seniors, such as Echo for dementia, which gives harried caregivers a break by responding much as they would — minus the frustration from endless repetition, because Echo is a device! Echo can:

• Answer simple questions such as, “What day is it?” or “What time is it?”
• Play music and read audiobooks, without any need for complicated controls
• Tell jokes
• Looks up information, e.g., “What’s on TV tonight?”
• Report traffic and weather

Rick Phelps, 63, who has had Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD) since 2010, calls Echo a godsend. He bought one in February 2016, and writes in his blog, “It has afforded me something that I have lost. Memory. I can ask anything and I get the answer instantly. And I can ask it what day it is twenty times a day and I will still get the same correct answer.”

This digital personal assistant can remind someone to take their medication, at the same time every day, once it’s been given this instruction — a great relief for loved ones who worry that post-it notes are no longer effective.

It also gives older adults with mobility issues or health conditions such as Parkinson’s greater control over their environment, and hence more independence.

What the well-dressed senior will be wearing this season

Wearables now go far beyond watches. In the pipeline are Proximity badges (for those who haven’t invested in an Echo, or perhaps are no longer able to use it) and a hip protector belt that contains a folded airbag (yes, really!). This short video describes how motion sensors detect a human fall in progress and deploy the airbag to prevent a hip fracture — possibly saving a senior’s life.

Similarly, this device enables people with peripheral neuropathy, which can make walking difficult, to walk safely again.

Then there are the “unmentionable” problems, such as leaky bowels. One tech innovator is working on a device to predict bowel movements, so someone can be alerted and get to a bathroom in time.

What about people with severe hearing loss or those who are deaf/mute? People who use American Sign Language (ASL) can don these incredible gloves that translate ASL into text and speech, using sensors and Bluetooth processing. It’s the first such commercial sign language translator on the market. As the young inventors state, “We believe access, and inclusiveness, are catalysts for change.”

The accidental tourist redux

Finally, for the adventurous who may not have the financial resources, physical ability, or desire to travel and explore new worlds, there will be armchair travel via a new merged reality: a mash-up of fantasy, technology, biology and 3D. Magic Leap will permit people to travel via MR: mixed reality. Special goggles trick the brain into thinking it is seeing 3D reality. Its creator calls this, “dreaming with your eyes open.” And like many of the visionary wearables for senior safety and communication, it’s still in development — but not that far away, especially if you’re wearing the special goggles.

While your reverse mortgage clients and prospects look forward to these tremendous technovations, they can keep track of the milestones via their smartphones, tablets and laptops — once they’ve finished with email, banking and web surfing, of course.

Get Smart! From TV to Technology

Telerehab? Networked Elder Care?

If you’re over 50, you’ll likely recall the 1960s television comedy, “Get Smart”, in which a bumbling secret agent used a panoply of “high-tech” devices to win the day in each episode. While many visionary ideas employed by the show (think of Maxwell Smart using his shoe or tie as a cell phone) have since come to pass in a more functional form, today’s tech can help seniors even more than it helped Agent 86.

Smart phones. Smart cars. Smart clothes. Smart health care.

reverse mortgage newsHow “smart” are the seniors your reverse mortgage business serves when it comes to the tech support? We’re not talking about calling a computer helpline. The Internet of Things (smart, connected devices or objects) is exploding at a mind-blowing rate: in fact, eight years ago there were already more objects connected to the Internet than people! And by the close of 2015, there were 9 billion connected objects, from smart phones to smart cars to smart clothes. By 2020, this figure is projected to exceed 50 billion.

You may be scratching your head about smartwear. At the moment, sports enthusiasts are leading the trend toward smart clothing, with sensor-infused shirts, shorts, sports bras and socks that provide biometric data on muscle activity, breathing rate, and heart activity zones (all data not currently tracked by fitness bands or smart watches). But think about what this could mean for the senior population, especially as people become frail or develop memory loss.

In fact, elder care itself has gotten smart, as companies such as SmartCare Consultants and Care at Hand demonstrate. After watching three family members deal with serious illness that required constant care, with his grandmother unable to call for help in a medical emergency, SmartCare Consultants founder Bryan Jefferson created round-the-clock, transparent care that introduces groundbreaking technology into residential care communities, from networked devices to cloud data analysis that provides immediate, timely reports.

Care at Hand takes smart health even further. After his great uncle’s health rapidly failed, Care at Hand co-founder Jeffrey Levy created a platform that allows non-medical personnel to use evidence-based smart surveys to predict and prevent hospitalizations. In this touching story, Levy describes how his mother, with zero clinical training, was able to use Care at Hand to monitor his father’s health status in the aftermath of a medical emergency, detect a developing blood clot, alert his physician, and prevent another trip to the ER.

Telerehab? It’s the Best Program on TV

What about a senior who suffers a fall and needs rehabilitation to get back on their feet, literally? This used to be a conundrum: if a senior needed physical therapy, but had no way to get to the rehabilitation center because they were unable to drive, they would either need residential care in a rehabilitation center, or hope they could find a physical therapist who makes house calls.

RespondWell has this handled. The telerehabilitation software helps patients go through rehab via TV. As we noted in The Rejuvenating Effect of Tech, while this breakthrough was not designed specifically with seniors in mind, it’s a boon to an older population.

And if a senior is healthy and wants to remain so? Wearable tech such as fitness trackers keeps seniors walking and accountable, prompting one 62-year-old to “triple her daily mileage, improve her diet and shed 13 unwanted pounds she’d carried around since her first child was born.” That’s a pretty good ROI for a small device.

No doubt Maxwell Smart would approve.


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The Rejuvenating Effect of Tech

The Key Ingredients to Hold Their Attention

While the fountain of youth may be mythical, when it comes to positive aging, even the oldest old (those 85+) are rejuvenating via technology. My 91-year-old father, a stalwart print-and-landline devotee until just a few years ago, recently read an online restaurant review and suggested to my brother that they enjoy a meal at a new Thai place (it was delicious). He’s Googled a plumber, ordered from Amazon, and figured out how to attach and email me a photo of himself.

reverse mortgage newsHe owns an iPhone, too. Not for calls or texting, but to provide a workaround for severe hearing loss: in person, those who are patient enough to type what they want to tell him make it easy for him to read and respond appropriately — especially useful when the bathroom sink is leaking.

Yet even his technological savvy pales in comparison with the growing elder use of Uber, Instacart, TaskRabbit and other on-demand services in the new sharing economy. Sally Lindover, 88, signed up for Instacart after low-back pain made carrying grocery bags a struggle. She also rents out her spare bedroom through Airbnb.

All Access, Across the Globe

Just as the Internet flattened the world, providing access to household names via social media, along with the ability to forge friendships and business relationships as easily across the planet as across town, technology has flattened services. Age-specific solutions such as Meals on Wheels, paratransit minibuses and senior living facilities are becoming redundant in the sharing economy, which caters to consumers throughout the age spectrum. Not only does this remove aging stigma, it empowers older adults with a fresh sense of mastery and independence.

In fact, at a recent Aging2.0 conference, a panel on aging and tech, with participants ranging from early 70s to 97, amazed the presenters: all but one participant owns and uses a smartphone (but not at the dinner table or when in groups, something the young could learn from their well mannered elders). They love Facebook and gaming, enjoy video chats — and are not using any apps designed for seniors!

The message for reverse mortgage professionals and others who work with seniors seems to be: treat this group as the curious, connected and engaged individuals they are. Once someone gets over that initial reluctance to enter the digital domain, they tend to embrace it wholeheartedly, as my dad did.

The Millennial generation keeps developing ingenious ways to meet the needs of a super-connected (and very busy) population: bring what people need to their doorstep. Food kiosks are one of the latest innovations, and they may help elders who can no longer shop and cook to remain independent longer, as well as provide nourishing meals for those who can still prepare their own food, but find it too laborious to do on a daily basis.

Whereas a service like Instacart handles food shopping for a senior (or anyone who uses it), Pantry is exploring how to bring healthy prepared meals to residential buildings, so a meal “kit” would be available in someone’s apartment lobby, requiring just a quick sauté and serve. The company is also looking into the feasibility of stocking complete ready-to-eat healthy meals in the kiosks. It’s enough to make your mouth water.

Perhaps, in the new millennium, the fountain of youth simply looks different than before.


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The Kids are All Right

Six Tech Startups to Help Seniors Age in Place

From robots to wearable safety detectors, end-of-life decisions to daytrips for dementia patients, 20- and 30-somethings are turning their immense drive and creativity towards helping seniors and their family members as never before. These young entrepreneurs are filling senior market gaps, some of which we might not have conceived of until the visionary company appeared.reverse mortgage news

Such as a ride service for patients with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, Silver Sedans offers rides to all older adults in need of transportation. But they also offer a specialized ride service for Alzheimer’s patients that provides mental stimulation along with the ride.

Or Attendant, an aptly-named platform that aggregates tasks for the family of a just-deceased loved one, from funeral arrangements to death certificates and beyond — “from social security to social media” says the site — so families can focus on grieving rather than on details at a time of loss. The startup team is young enough to be a reverse mortgage client’s grandchildren — which may be precisely why they understand the importance and value of such a service.

Robots to the rescue

We’ve written before about how robots are infiltrating the senior landscape to make life easier, such as with household chores. Now Luvozo is developing SAM, a robot who’ll be able to roam senior living communities, assist residents with non-medical tasks, and participate in activities. For those who may be lonely, with few people to talk to, SAM might be a welcome friend. Hopefully he’ll be programmed to be a good listener and scintillating conversationalist.

Women are often at the helm of disruptive health care technology startups, such as Caremerge, a health tech company that’s revolutionizing care coordination and communication for seniors by providing a HIPAA-compliant, web- and mobile platform that allows family members to communicate in real time with their loved ones’ doctors and other health care providers.

Humetrix puts medical intelligence in a senior’s hands, literally: the company’s mobile applications give consumers their own health IT systems for improved patient safety and cost control, from a customizable ICEBlueButton (In Case of Emergency) to an iBlueButton, a patient-controlled button that enables consumers to easily and securely pull, receive, aggregate, store and share their emergency medical records summary at any point of care or in a telemedicine scenario.

Finally, when a senior needs to move, the very thought of sorting through and packing up a lifetime of memories can be overwhelming. Senior Move Success helps manage the transition to assisted living or independent housing, providing the compassionate support that can smooth the way to an older adult’s next, and likely final, place of residence — by planning, finding, arranging, coordinating, and managing all of the resources necessary.

All of these startups and many others point to the extensive support both youth and the healthcare IT sector are devoting to an aging population, welcome news for both reverse mortgage professionals and the seniors you serve.

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App-solutely Easy: Visionary Elder Tech

New Technology Making Senior’s Lives Easier

As we explored last year in Caring for the Caregivers, technology can make aging easier on both sides of the care equation. Here are some exciting new ways technology is fueling a positive aging experience:

  1. Doc-in-a-Box. The days of house calls have vanished along with corded landline phones, but technology is returning doctor visits to the home — via Skype and similar videoconference service providers. Just as seniors have embraced technology in droves, video visits will replace (or at least supplement) in-person office visits, with their typical long waits.reverse mortgage news
  2. Share and share alike. Complementing video doctor visits is an exponential rise in online medical records sharing. While privacy and information pirating are also growing concerns, an inappropriate medical record release isn’t likely to prove fatal, whereas lack of access to vital information in an emergency could mean the difference between life and death.
  3. Alfred, the Robo-butler. A tech-savvy reverse mortgage client might visit her doctor online, order groceries from the local market via their website, and Facebook regularly with grandkids. But wouldn’t it be nice to have someone like a trusted butler to handle all of a senior’s household needs, including setting appointments, or reminding them when to buy more milk? A real-life Alfred (like a personal assistant you never see) will handle all the particulars in the background of someone’s life — if they live in New York City or Boston. For everyone else, a virtual version, Hello Alfred, functions as an on-demand one-stop service portal. Because, as today’s seniors are proving by their behavior, rocking out means a concert, not a porch chair.
  4. Lights, camera, action: No matter how healthy an older person may be, certain faculties tend to decline with age — particularly hearing and vision. Fortunately, merchants everywhere are recognizing that if a senior can read what’s on offer, they’ll be that much more likely to buy. LED lights have begun showing up in unexpected places, such as on restaurant menus. Fashion designer Ralph Lauren, who at 75 understands this demographic, has gone one better: designing a tote bag with LED lights on the inside, to help a mature woman find the pen to sign her credit card receipt.
  5. Can you smell that? One company has developed an “electronic nose” based on nanotechnology that will interface with any smartphone. Creator Samuel M. Khamis explains how, with just a whiff, the e-nose will be able to provide information about a person’s metabolic state and the number of calories being burned, in real time. This data can help people lose weight — or warn users well in advance of a potential asthma attack. As his company refines the technology, it will be useful for many additional health care applications based around breath analysis.

What’s certain is that the number of elder apps will continue to flourish, helping seniors to track illnesses, along with medications and potential side effects. My Recovery, designed by a surgeon, helps patients prepare for their operation, understand what to expect during and after the hospital stay, and even guides them through rehabilitation exercises. The Flowy app uses games to help people manage panic attacks — and a pilot study has already demonstrated a significant decline in symptoms.

So while tomorrow’s tech-savvy seniors may have to contend with a bit less personal privacy than in the past, the flip side is the promise of greater independence in the home, for longer — possibly even to the end of their lives.

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