At Live in Place Designs, we believe that aging gracefully with independence can be achieved through good home design. For this article, we’d like to focus on a particularly easy-to-implement element of aging in place: assistive technology for the elderly.
Assistive or adaptive technology for aging is exactly what it sounds like: electronic or digital products that help solve aging challenges. In our case, we prize the many applications of assistive technology for the elderly who choose to live at home, either on their own or with caretakers.
We know that the word “technology” can sound intimidating to older people, but we’re really living in a golden age of user-friendly assistive technology. Smartphones alone have made a huge dent in previous home safety and security concerns.
Basically, keep an open mind in regards to what your aging loved one can handle. The gadgets, apps, and assistive devices for seniors at home can be surprisingly easy to use.
Consult this guide to learn how assistive technology can enable your loved ones to live at home with independence and peace of mind. Look through the titles to find the specific challenges they seem to be dealing with — and what solutions can help.
Daily Organization and Routine
For many aging people, memory loss and confusion can pose an issue.
This could encompass natural forgetfulness as well as a slower ability to learn. Plus, your loved ones are likely to experience big life changes as they age that might throw off their sense of routine – like retirement.
Sometimes, the forgetting and disorientation are more severe, as in the case of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s (a particular, degenerative form of dementia). Assistive technology that helps structure time and activities will especially come in handy for these conditions.
All sorts of daily prompts can be built into smartphones and household smart devices, like an Amazon Alexa. Specific assistive tools can also address specific reminder needs.
Digital calendars change on their own, offering the observer date, time, and weather information each day.
Automatic pill dispensers control the dosage and time of medication ingestion. This can be effective in two important ways: increasing consistency and preventing dangerous overdose.
The smartphone app Pillboxie allows you to easily set up visual daily prompts so your loved one can check off medications once they’ve taken them.
To-Do Assistive Technology
It’s easy for anyone of any age to lose their keys, phone, wallet, or purse. If someone’s short-term memory is suffering, it’s even more likely. Locating devices help solve this.
This technology often consists of small, adhesive tabs with an audio cue (beep!) and a central remote. Stick the locators on any small items that could be absent-mindedly misplaced.
This smart technology-enabled aid is particularly amazing. You can program recorded steps for activities in connection with reminders or prompts.
For instance, you could program an alarm to go off at 10 AM that says “Time to get dressed. Pull the handle of the top drawer in your dresser. Take out one shirt, pants, and socks….”
You’ve probably already guessed that a smart assistant, like an Alexa or Echo, could also serve this purpose.
For this particular type of assistive technology for the elderly, you’ll want to consider your loved one’s level of comfort with surveillance. Some people are bothered by what feels like an invasion of privacy, but it’s important to balance this with the fact that surveillance technology can greatly increase safety.
These monitoring systems can detect when something seems amiss in the environment. They send alerts if they sense changes from ordinary events, such as:
- Changes of routine (i.e. not getting out of bed at the usual time)
- Impact with the floor – these are specific fall detectors
- Unlocked or open doors
These systems can also include personal alarms that your loved one wears. Emergency services and contacts can be alerted at the touch of a button.
These trackers can be lifesavers for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s who tend to wander away from home and forget how to return.
They can come in more obvious forms, like a wristband, but there are also handy “hidden” versions in shoe insoles. This helps offset the tendencies of people with dementia or Alzheimer’s to remove helpful devices.
You can also install this kind of device in a car for those in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Water temperature monitors
You can install these on bathroom or kitchen faucets.
People with dementia or Alzheimer’s are especially sensitive to water temperature, and they may accidentally set it too high without realizing. A monitor can prevent discomfort as well as serious burns.
In the same vein, monitors for different appliances can send alerts when the fridge door is left open, reminders that the stove/oven is on, and even shut off an electrical or gas appliance automatically if they detect smoke.
Below are some examples of this type of assistive technology:
Works by sensing both the state of the stove controls and if a person is attending the stove while it is turned on.
General home security alarm systems
Home security systems need not be complex or alarming. You can have a Ring doorbell installed for your loved one with ease. This will alert them of anybody who approaches their threshold, and they can check it for a voice and/or video preview of the guest as well.
As awful as it seems that somebody could take advantage of an elderly person, especially one with memory loss, it does happen. Because of that, this is an important addition for most aging people who live alone. Sometimes the mere presence of a visible alarm system is enough to deter unsavory folks.
Check In with Individual Needs
The most important consideration when adding assistive technology for an elderly person in their home: in what areas do they actually need or want help?
When you’re busy raising kids and working, it feels incredibly convenient to have a box of groceries delivered. But for your retired loved one, that may eliminate their chance to see people at the store or go shopping with a friend or helper.
Assistive technology used with sensitivity balances the physical, social, domestic, and comfort needs of the individual.
At Live in Places Designs, we’re CAPS certified to help you navigate these decisions to suit your loved one’s needs and lifestyle.