Bridging Generations: How Tech Takes Care of Seniors Now

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Canada has reached a census milestone: for the first time in history, seniors outnumber the nation’s children. Even more startling: within three years, this will be true worldwide. It’s already old news in Japan, where people 65+ plus comprise a fourth of the population and are on track to reach 40 percent, due to the longest global life expectancy, and birth dearth.

But far from bemoaning the silver tsunami, Japan is innovating in response, from comprehensive long-term care insurance to robotics. As this recent Reverse Focus video explains, combining LTC insurance with a HELOC can make a great deal of sense. Caregiving will become a real, possibly urgent need if we live long enough, and we will need the money to pay for it.

However, given the shortage of human caregivers where they are most needed, technology can help bridge the gap in myriad creative ways. From animatronic pets to compassionate robots, startups are stepping up to support the rising tide of older adults — especially those who are lonely.

11_elliqForecast: Cloudy and Clear 

Developed in Belgium and now available stateside, Cubigo is a cloud-based, interactive platform that helps elders living at home remain independent and socially connected.

Cubigo connects seniors, caregivers, family and businesses in an easy-to-use, modular interface that allows each user to choose among a broad set of functions. A senior can make video calls, order meals or transportation, track and share medical data, create medication reminders, and much more — all in one place. All someone needs is a digital device (laptop, tablet, smartphone) and an Internet connection. It’s a simple, secure, self-directed way for an elder who needs minimal assistance to manage at home without a caregiver.

Driven to Serve Seniors

Once a senior has Cubigo, they’ll need a transportation service to order — and there is one “made to order” for older adults: GoGoGrandparent. GoGoGrandparent monitors and customizes on-demand transportation such as Uber for older audiences and their families.

In addition to custom pick ups and automatic scheduling for recurring rides (e.g., medical appointments), GoGoGrandparent provides by-the-minute text updates to designated family members so they know precisely where Mom or Grandma is en route. Service is available throughout the US and Canada — a potential client can check location availability by plugging their zip code into the site’s search page — and GoGo adds a $.19/minute concierge fee to the Uber fare.

Bot Can They Play Bridge?

Robots already play a valued role in our lives for automated housekeeping tasks. But they’re light-years away from demonstrating sentience, like Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation — right?

Perhaps not. The legions of aging adults also means a steep rise in dementia, and a care robot can be an unobtrusive companion that also reminds a senior to drink enough water, take medication on time, and eat three meals a day. In the UK, the Chiron Project is developing a set of “modular robotic systems” designed for home care with dignity — not quite a Data-like android, but still a bot that “gets it”.

And while Data often despaired of his ability to master human emotion, the ElliQ is being designed to do just that: provide emotional support to seniors who want to age in place. After choosing to apply for a reverse mortgage, this desktop bot could be the most valuable later life decision an elder makes. The active aging companion keeps elders actively engaged. And yes, ElliQ can play bridge!

The Perfect Pet: No Feeding, No Clean-up

Several years ago we featured virtual “pet companion” GeriJoy, a remote caregiving service that provides seniors who have mild dementia with an adorable animal avatar who will engage with the elder on demand, via tablet or laptop.

The caregivers providing companionship and oversight via GeriJoy are highly trained, compassionate, and available to monitor an older loved one 24/7. Unlike actual pets, they speak English, and can alert the emergency contact person in the event of a change in behavior or a fall.

But sometimes, only the real deal will do. Joy For All Companion Pets has this handled, with animatronic pets that deliver tactile and auditory stimulation to seniors with dementia.

Joy For All dispenses with leash and litter box; their pets simply dispense love. These animatronic animals provide comfort, a calming influence, and happiness, often evoking memories of beloved living pets from the past. They’re amazingly lifelike, especially the cat, which purrs and meows just like an actual feline — but won’t jump off a senior’s lap (and probably doesn’t shed, either).

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