Aging provides a variety of unique challenges, especially as more and more of our population crests 65 years of age. Changes in housing, health care needs, spheres of influence, and social environments can cause serious upheaval for seniors and their families and caregivers. One thing that can ease the transition? Technology.
Last week, we attended the Aging 2.0 Silvertech seminar at the Madison Public Library to learn more about the strides technology is making in providing accessible new ways to improve seniors’ quality of life. Presented by Adam Simcock and Erin Courtenay of Earthling Interactive, a software development company based right here in Madison, the seminar covered tech across various aspects of aging and related fields, like caregiving. Here’s what we learned:
Quite a few products weren’t initially created with seniors in mind, like the Eversound wireless headphones that allow a user to listen to something independently of others at their own volume. Originally made for silent discos, the usage by senior living facilities shifted the product’s marketing toward the older generation. There’s also Gillette’s evolution of their popular razors into the Treo, a razor designed for shaving another person rather than yourself. This is a particular boon to caregivers who struggle with grooming their clients or loved ones.
Other products were made specifically for seniors or people with disabilities, like the Liftware cutlery stabilizer. Built for folks with hand tremors, the Liftware handle keeps a spoon level even through all the shaking, keeping the food from spilling out. It’s an example of accessible innovation that promotes dignity without sacrificing usefulness.
Along with individual gadgets, more modern technologies have been developed with seniors in mind. Accutech Security offers the Resident Guard wander management system that alerts facilities to a wandering resident and builds a pattern of behavior for gentle corrective suggestions, instead of forcing facilities to have locked doors or sirens. This could be implemented in a senior’s home, as well, but it’s intended for use at assisted living or skilled nursing facilities. Virtual reality products that provide new sensory experiences are also being marketed toward seniors, like the Rendever platform meant to recreate visual experiences for its users and provide therapy.
Services are cropping up for seniors that aren’t just home care or facilities. Chefs for Seniors is an in-home cooking service that brings professional chefs into the homes of seniors in need of meal preparation and service. This could easily be used in conjunction with a care management service to bring high quality, diet-conscious meals into a client’s home.
Senior living communities are getting a modern, techie makeover in Minka, a tiny home production company founded by aging expert Dr. Bill Thomas. Intended to give seniors safe, simple places to live, the Minka project is also meant to create communities. Tiny homes built together into neighborhoods provide affordable, safe housing and promote socialization, combating the loneliness that can come with aging that plagues far too many seniors in this country.
The seminar concluded with a Q&A directed at solving the problem of disseminating this information to the people who will actually use it. One concern was regarding implementation of these products and services in client homes; a dislike or fear of new technology often prevents seniors from adopting new, helpful products. My suggestion? Start at the caregiver level. If caregivers, be they family or professional, understand the good new tech can bring to their loved ones or clients and learn how to use it themselves, they’ll be able to teach and integrate them into the home.
If you’re interested in implementing some of these products or services into your care plan, give us a call at 608-276-6000!