‘Health care technology’ once existed only in the hospital or the laboratory. Today, it is right inside the American home. No, we’re not talking about robotic surgery machines or patient imaging equipment. We’re talking about the ubiquitous computing, wireless and blue tooth devices that are getting cheaper and more practical each year.
Remember the MedicAlert bracelet? It has helped patients for more than 60 years by communicating emergency contact and other medical information through a simple, yet effective, piece of jewelry. Flash forward to 2015 and an Amazon.com search for ‘medical alert device’ will yield hundreds of products including fall sensors, motion sensors, emergency calling devices, heart monitors, and (oh, yeah) medical alert bracelets. An Apple Watch can monitor heart rate, remind you to take medicine or to exercise, and potentially do much more with new apps being developed every day. While none of these devices takes the place of a physician, a nurse or a professional caregiver, they do make it easier for seniors to live out their years at home, rather than in an assisted-living facility.
‘Aging In Place’ Is Preferred, And Technology Makes This Possible
In a report, ‘Aging In Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices,’ the National Conference of State Legislatures in partnership with AARP Public Policy Institute found that nearly 90 percent of seniors over the age of 65 prefer to stay in their home as long as possible. The report also identified the need for sufficient local services such as meal preparation, medication management, housekeeping, social engagement and transportation to ensure good home health care.
Cities like Austin, Texas are ahead of the curve for technology-assisted living, making it possible for seniors to live at home longer than ever before. The real estate company, Redfin Corporation, recently ranked US cities for their ‘techiness’ related to assisted living. Among the top ten cities were two from Texas, Austin at number four and Houston at number five. The formula for the ranking was a combination of availability of web-based services such as Instacart (grocery service) or Porch (house-cleaning) and affordability of housing so that overall costs would still be less than that of an assisted living facility. These internet services can certainly provide freedom to an elderly person, but do seniors actually use the internet?
Seniors Are Getting More and More Connected Every Year
Perhaps surprisingly, the 2013 US Census found that nearly 60% of Americans age 65 or older identified themselves as household internet users. Although internet usage varies with household income, race and ethnicity, those gaps shrink rapidly when smart phones and tablets are factored in. In 2013, about one-third of Americans 65 years and older had such handheld devices, a number that is likely to be higher as of the writing of this article (August, 2015). According to Pew Research, the majority of these technology-enabled seniors use the devices for texting, browsing the internet, emailing, and viewing social media such as Facebook.
Of course, today's 'forty-somethings' are tomorrow's seniors, a demographic shift that increases internet and device usage within the senior category with each new decade. Technology-assisted senior living makes in-home care more and more appealing both to caregivers and to seniors, who themselves are becoming more tech-savvy than ever before.
Look for updates to this Technology-Assisted Senior Living blog that will identify websites, smart phone apps, consumer devices and other medical innovations that make in-home senior care better than ever.
Hill Country Care Providers offers 24 hour in home care for our Austin, TX clients. We are focused on providing premier in-home care, not simply on providing the minimal care covered by Medicare. As such, we are an entirely private pay home health agency (Medicare does not cover premier options such as 24-hour in-home care). Our clients either have additional long-term health care insurance or prefer to pay out of pocket for the best care available.