The trend to use technological innovations to help seniors live longer, more fulfilling lives is catching steam around the world. Generally known as the Aging 2.0 movement, it holds huge promise for our seniors, especially when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT). Wait, what is IoT exactly?
In fact, though we may not always associate technology with America’s expanding senior population, IoT—along with a new round of connected wearables, portables, and emergency support systems—is about to change that.
IoT is the name given to the expanding network of “smart” devices currently connecting together in the digital landscape. Just like Nest allows us to monitor our homes remotely, numerous new technologies promise to connect seniors to care teams and other life-saving processes that can make their lives easier, safer, and more enjoyable all around.
Tech company Cisco estimates that by 2020, the Internet of Things will expand to include 50 billion smart objects and our seniors will likely benefit more than any other group. Why?
Just seven years ago, seven able adults were available for every senior in need of care. Fast forward to 2030, and that ratio will likely drop to just 4:1. By 2050, it will dip to just 3:1.
Deemed the “caregiving cliff” by AARP, the trend describes our country’s current plight, as mass numbers of Baby Booming seniors who need care begin to outnumber those able to help them.
Enter: The Internet of Things
Through a connected “digital mesh,” a new cornucopia of smart devices will help monitor, alert, track, and support the growing senior community, whether they’re living in smart senior communities or their own family homes.
Used well, the devices could keep seniors connected and safe—and help alleviate some the stress on caregivers supporting them. Below are a few ways IoT is advancing senior longevity.
1) Wearable Tech and Implant Technology
Cardiac and biometric sensors, as well as smart glucometers, can provide a number of benefits:
- They can track vital signs, sending emergency emails or texts in real time to care providers if something is off track.
- Wearables can also detect things like low levels of movement and abnormal sleeping habits, allowing care teams to track behavior patterns and check on patients if needed.
- Pacemakers and glucometers can even be implanted directly into the senior’s body to track vitals, ensuring that the tech is always accurate.
- Because they are connected, the data from wearables can be sent to the cloud, then analyzed and measured to find trends and insights for doctors and family members. Over time, for instance, doctors might notice a decline in sleeping or exercise, or notice that insulin levels rise or drop at certain points in the day.
2) Portable Diagnostics
Portable machines, now so small they can be stored at home, can perform blood and urine tests, allowing seniors to remain in the comfort of home while performing regular workups.
Powered by IoT, they can then store, process, and send the data to the senior’s care team in real time for analysis.
3) Emergency Responders
Personal responders have been around for quite a while, but IoT has made them even stronger and smarter than before. For instance, today’s responders can detect and alert family members if those with dementia have moved outside of their specified or protected living area.
They can also offer navigational assistance for patients who struggle with Alzheimer’s to ensure they make it home safe and sound. Remote monitoring for caregivers also makes it possible to keep close watch on loved ones while at working or running daily errands.
4) Smart Homes and Communities
All IoT technologies mentioned above can also be utilized within homes and senior communities to help caregivers provide better care to those you love.
With the Internet of Things, data can be streamed to an analytics dashboard for nurses and doctors, who can monitor patients from any location in real time. For instance, products like MimoCare, send alerts if a resident may have fallen, is wandering, or experiences an abnormal change in daily routine.
IoT holds so much potential for our society as a whole, but most especially for our senior community. Used well, it can enhance independence, longevity, and well-being, for our seniors, while simultaneously easing the stress on those that love them.
Written by Jess Stonefield. Jess is passionate about senior longevity and the concept of “equitable equity”—spreading the wealth to all levels of our society. She serves as communications expert for Senior Living Fund.