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Technology and Companionship Helping Seniors Stay Home Longer

Elderly woman on her computer
The surging development of new gadgets is expected to help many in the growing elderly population postpone a move to assisted care facilities.

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October 11, 2011

The surging development of new gadgets is expected to help many in the growing elderly population postpone a move to assisted care facilities, but some of the electronic wizardry may compromise privacy. A Home Instead CAREgiverSM can provide the human touch any time, night or day.

Q. As an 80-year-old woman who lives at home alone, I am interested in doing whatever I can to stay here. My grandson said there is technology that can help me do that by letting my family “monitor” me. I’m a very independent person. Would I have to give up some privacy if I accepted these new-fangled ideas?

Your grandson is right. Here are some interesting innovations designed by Georgia Tech College of Computing (http://gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/newsrelease/privacy.htm):

  • “Cook’s Collage,” which photographs people during meal preparation and displays the cook’s six most recent actions on a flat-panel display mounted over the countertop. The idea is to prevent distracted chefs from forgetting what actions they’ve already taken. To reduce “Big Brother” appearances, cameras are mounted out of sight and only show the chef’s hands.
  • “Digital Family Portrait” helps out-of-town family members keep an eye on aging relatives. A display monitor hangs in the caregiver’s home and displays a static photo of the older relative. The photo is surrounded by a digital-image frame whose icons change daily to reflect information about the older adult’s life, such as general activity level.
  • “FaceBot” is a communication device that interacts with other home technologies. It features two cameras for eyes, microphones as ears and a speaker as its mouth. Instead of giving voice commands to an empty room, such as “turn up the temperature,” residents can talk directly to FaceBot.

Researchers at the school invited 44 adults ages 65 to 75 to tour the residential laboratory and view these new age-in-place technologies. Overall the seniors who were surveyed said they didn’t mind giving up some privacy to be able to remain independent, researchers reported.

Caregivers and their senior loved ones don’t have to wait for the development of new technology to make things easier at home. Some adaptive devices that are relatively inexpensive and can be easily installed include raised toilet seats, hand-held shower nozzles, floor-to-ceiling grab bars, mobile kitchen stools, rubber ramps and automatic lid openers.

While technology is of value, there is no substitute for human contact. A few hours a week with a local Home Instead CAREGiverSM can keep older adults in their homes longer as well.

CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and equipped to provide that human touch that technology can’t. CAREGivers are even matched with seniors to share their same interests and hobbies. Services are provided from a few hours a week up to 24 hours a day – including weekends and holidays.

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