05.21.2020 – Senior Living Foresight conducted a constructive virtual summit recently which provided excellent insight on a variety of topics. Active Living International had some valuable takeaways for those in the senior living space. If you are interested in the full line up of webinars go to Senior Living Foresight Virtual Summit.
The importance of technology in Senior Living communities
Speaker: Laurie Orlov
Blog: May 21, 2020
In 2020, there are a plethora of technological devices available to aid older adults so they can be as independent as possible. COVID-19 has exposed an urgent need for more widespread adoption of these devices. Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging & Health Technology Watch, which provides analyses and guidance on technology that enables Boomers to seniors to remain in their preferred home setting longer while enhancing their quality of life. At the Virtual Senior Living Foresight Summit, Orlov explained the different categories within aging in place technology while connecting them to specific needs of older adults.
Aging and quality of life depends on connected relationships. This is not just between residents and their friends or family, but between fellow residents, their healthcare providers, the operator, and healthcare partners. We can’t expect to provide the best possible quality of life without direct, transparent, and frequent back-and-forth communication between all parties involved.
Digital communication will be an immense aid in executing these concepts. COVID-19 has taught all of us this is possible. As proper aging in place technologies are becoming more advanced and common, embracing digital communication is essential.
Life expectancy at 65 has extended significantly. Research Orlov said those 65+ are growing increasingly free of chronic conditions, primarily driven by income, and the willingness to embrace new technology in their day-to-day lives. An individual’s needs vary over time with changes in their health status. Based on the presented research, older adults and seniors will be more willing to embrace the technologies that improve their life and lifestyle.
The senior living sector must stay up-to-date in fostering tech-friendly communities and provide tech assistance to residents who aspire to embrace it.
Seniors use technology for these four main purposes:
• Communication and Engagement (e-mail, games, cell/smartphone, hearables),
• Safety and Security (security systems, fall detection, activity monitoring),
• Learning and Contribution (legacy, education, volunteering), and
• Health and Wellness (myHealth apps, telehealth, medication management, fitness trackers)
Included are devices that fall into three different tech “types”; 1) voice first 2) wearables, 3) hearables. Voice first technologies are devices that can be spoken to and the user will receive a verbal response. Voice first has been implemented in vehicle GPS/music systems, smart speakers, and has become more useful in healthcare in recent years with hands-free interaction and doctors’ notes.
Aside from the benefits to older adults being able to speak to technology in order to play music and ask questions, more companies like LifePod and Intuition Robotics offer technology with intelligent, responsive conversation—providing a sense of connection to those without close relatives and friends. Wearable technology has become vastly more advanced since its beginning. For example, 30% of PERS (personal emergency response systems) are now mobile or have mobile capability.
More “mainstream” forms of wearable technology are seen in the Apple Watch & FitBit, but several forms of wearables geared toward older adults have been developed in recent years. Trelaware is like LifeAlert but the lanyard is disguised as a piece of fashionable jewelry. Loc4U, a location tracker, and AliveCor, an analysis and description of heart status app, are just a few on an expanding list. The last type of older adult-oriented technology that Orlov focused on are hearables. Examples of new and improved hearables include hearing aids with AI, Bluetooth, and fall detection, apps that can test hearing (the Mimi app), and smart headphones/ear buds have emerged to assist those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Like implementing any new technology, these types of older adult technology come with risks. Voice first isn’t widely available for all languages yet, wearables and hearables are easily lost or misplaced, and all three types can be pricey.
However, while considering the risks involved, we need to also keep in mind that not choosing to keep up with these new aging in place elements is not helping our residents live their best lives. Adoption of these technologies is on the rise, and Orlov expects the market to be near $30 billion by 2025. Failure to embrace and implement could be fatal to an operator.