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High tech for Elders: If you fall down our clothing will call 911

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
April 20, 2018
Navigating the aging journey

Whereas we are not living exactly in the Jetson cartoon watched by many of the baby boomers of this generation - we will be seeing some significant technological advances that will serve to ease lives and increase safety for this burgeoning population of seniors.

Kari Olson, is the chief innovation and technology officer for a company called Front Porch. This non-profit is known to provide support services for senior communities. Kari keeps her finger on the pulse of new technology. Her primary job is to make an effort to identify products that help seniors within the company’s communities.

To this end, their company made a partnership with Intel-GE Care Innovations. The guiding principle is to deliver remote health care solutions as well as testing systems that allow residents to take their own vital signs. Care-providers then receive this information to use in remote medical monitoring. One community uses sensor systems that detect whether or not residents are active. If not - they notify someone who will check on them. 

The process and legality of remote monitoring of an elders’ health and activity is highly likely to get much more sophisticated as technology continues its very steady advance.

More seniors can stay home alone with the help of what seems to have been dubbed “nana technology.” Andrew Carle is an executive-in-residence. He is also founding director of the Program in Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Carle coined the “nana technology” term to better describe technology that focuses on the use of microchips that help older Americans.

Working as a consultant on development of shoe insoles that use GPS to track patients with Alzheimer’s, Carle sees a lot of potential in smart clothing, which for now is worn mostly by athletes. 

The same kind of sensors that are monitoring heart rate, respiration and use of muscles for athletes - are about to be put to use monitoring the health of the elderly.  

According to Carle, “Wherever you go, your clothes will take care of a lot of stuff. If you have a heart attack and fall down, your underwear will call 911.”

The primary tech advances that will help today’s elders

Self-driving cars: No senior willingly gives up their freedom to go where they want to, when they want to. Transportation is key to maintaining independence. Google has begun testing self-driving cars. These cars utilize sensors to evaluate the environment around them and software that handles real-time driving.

Although they are still in an experimental stage, Carle predicts they will be widely available within a decade. “That’s just in time for the next boomers who turn 75,” according to Carle. The significance of this is sobering. Once an elder loses their ability to drive - many are trapped at home alone. This is currently having a huge negative effect on our aging population.

Socks for Edema: A Danish company called Ohmatex, has delivered a way to detect and notify wearers of these new socks that their feet are beginning to swell, which is often a sign of a serious health ailment.  

SmartSox for those with diabetes: The University of Arizona is supporting research that is testing SmartSox. These socks are utilizing fiber optics to detect excessive pressure, heat and misplaced joint angles. These conditions lead to foot ulcers. This technology makes it possible for people with diabetes who often lose sensation in their feet to become aware of these critical body and condition changes.

Shoes that deter falls: Leading research studies have determined that vibrating shoe insoles improves balance and stability. The claim is that using this technology can make a fall 70 percent less likely.

Shirts that administer CPR? Yes! The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has already begun working on designing a shirt that senses a heart attack, and then administers CPR. While the estimates for this kind of shirt is at least 15 years away, there are actually shirts with sensors already on the market that are now being used primarily by athletes.

Robotic Nursing:  Some already know that researchers have been experimenting for years with robots with enough artificial intelligence to soon start serving as health care aides. This means we have robots that will issue medication reminders and transmit data to family and health care providers. Robot caregivers are being tested next year in Poland, England and Greece.

The Smart Home with voice control: We already know that Smart Home technology is using sensors, apps and computers. What is not widely known is that researchers are working on improving voice-recognition systems to become so smart that in-home programs can be operated by voice. 

This means that older residents who don’t use computers, or who have trouble seeing small screens can still utilize this cutting-edge technology. 

“It’s actually not about robots,” according to Carle. “Your home will be smart. Instead of Rosie the robot, we will talk to our homes. You will tell your Roomba to go vacuum. You won’t have to set it or program it - or even read a manual.”     

The grandPad: A Tablet designed just for seniors. The grandPad—a one-of-a-kind senior device with wireless charging. There are no passwords to remember and no downloads necessary. Private family network—family members can update phone numbers, change options and create new contacts from the convenient companion app or web portal. Preloaded, exclusive apps designed just for seniors—enjoy video chat, photo sharing, voice email, a music library, games and more. For more information on the grandPad call Home Instead Senior Care at 707-586-1516.

Ever hear the phrase, there’s an app for that? An app called Caring is just about to launch. Designed by local professionals, this app allows family members to enter medications, health data, keep track of the location of important legal documents and even get answers to over 150 common questions as people age or are ill. You can share your username and password with family. This allows them to use the app, too, so everyone has the same, real time information. Records are maintained, stored and fully encrypted in the ICloud. Get your smart phone or tablet ready to download this app soon from the App Store or Google Play. It will be such a help to have your loved one’s data handy at any time!

While these advances do not solve the biggest issue for elders, which is loneliness - the advances can help with safety and wellness - as long as our elderly have a daily companion or some family interaction supporting their daily routines. While there is no replacement for family, when you can’t be there- Home Instead Senior Care can.

For more information about the launch date of Caring or to learn more about purchasing a subscription, email or call (707) 762-5433.


Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.