Older Adult Personal Safety Tech

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Longer lifespans allow us to learn and experience more of everything life has and enjoy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. Longevity also has risks – physical and cognitive – that may require additional attention and support over time. 

The majority of adults surveyed by AARP and others indicate that older adults want to live in their homes for as long as possible before moving into community settings. Technology for fall detection and medical alerts, maintaining daily routines, communication with loved ones and caregivers, and care maintenance systems can provide older adults with a greater sense of safety and security and help families and caregivers stay informed of their elder’s well-being. Let’s review some of the options available.

Fall Detection and Prevention

Various wearables and stationary smart devices can alert caregivers and family members if the person in their care has fallen. Quick intervention can improve longer-term health outcomes for an older adult who falls, but only if families and care providers invest in systems that alert caregivers right away.

The two standouts in the wearable category are Apple Watch and Timex Senior Connect. The Apple Watch responds with an on-screen alert if it senses you’ve fallen and lets you place an emergency call (SOS) or respond that you’re OK. If you lose consciousness during a fall or don’t respond after a minute, the watch begins a 30-second countdown and then will call for emergency assistance using your iPhone.

apple watch fall notification
Apple Watch fall notification

The Timex Senior Connect or FamilyConnect Senior has similar fall-detection capabilities and an SOS button. If the watch senses you’ve fallen, Timex Senior Connect displays two choices: HELP and I’M OK. You can respond appropriately, or the watch will call your emergency contacts if you don’t respond within one minute. Users can optionally press and hold the SOS button to get emergency assistance.

Timex Senior Connect smartwatch

Stationary devices like Walabot and Nobi monitor a room and call for emergency assistance when detecting a fall without using wearables. Walabot was made for bathroom use, where many falls occur. Using a radio frequency (RF) sensor, Walabot calls your emergency contact when detecting a fall. No fob or pendant required.

walabot fall detection
Walabot fall detection monitor and companion app

Nobi is a smart lamp that uses AI and motion sensing for fall detection and prevention. Nobi markets to assisted living communities and care homes. If a resident falls in their apartment, Nobi immediately contacts staff for emergency assistance, minimizing the time between a fall and receiving care. Nobi will also illuminate a dark room at night when it senses motion, preventing residents from falling on the way to the bathroom or kitchen.

Nobi smart lamp
Nobi smart lamp

Medical Alert Systems

Medical alert systems from Medical Guardian, LifeFone, Bay Alarm Medical, Lifeline, ADT, and other companies have been around for years. They are the most commonly used personal safety devices for older adults. Typically consisting of a pendant, fob, or wristband and a base station, medical alert systems use a landline, cellular network, or wifi to communicate with a call center or facility staff 24/7.

Medical Guardian system
Medical alert system from Medical Guardian

Medical alert systems use subscription-based services. When an older adult presses the button on a pendant, fob, or wristband, the system makes an emergency call to a call center. An operator will respond verbally over the base station to assess your situation. Some systems have portable GPS-enabled products, too. The equipment is usually free with a subscription.

Some things to look for when selecting a medical alert system include:

  • Clearly defined costs and contracts.
  • A clearly defined subscription cancellation policy.
  • Wearable devices that are water-resistant.
  • Available GPS tracking.

Smart Speakers and Emergency Contacts

You can also use smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, Google Nest Mini, and Apple HomePod for emergency calling, similar to a medical alert system. Each speaker’s digital assistant – Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant – has a call-for-help feature enabling older adults to get emergency assistance by calling a preassigned emergency contact. The family member or caregiver can speak directly with their loved one or client and provide additional care if required.

Echo Dot smart speaker
Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker

Alexa Together is a subscription service that enables families and other caregivers to monitor the well-being of their loved ones or clients. Older adults can use it to get additional support as needed. Alexa Together requires a subscription and an Echo smart speaker or display.

Maintaining Routines and Home Safety

Smart home technology can help older adults maintain routine tasks and a safe home environment. Numerous smart sensors, such as stovetop, oven, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, can sense kitchen fires, water leaks, and other environmental hazards and notify family and caregivers. Digital assistant reminders from Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant are essential for appointments, medication, and prompting for everyday tasks. 

Google Nest smart thermostat
Google Nest smart thermostat

Smart thermostats adapt to their environments and can help save on energy costs. Smart bulbs and plugs can run on routines or use motion sensors so that lighting is always available but used only when needed, saving money and energy.

Staying Connected and Engaged

Isolation and loneliness are killers in normal times, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were tough on older adults and anyone living alone. FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet, and other video chat software became a lifeline for isolated elders who craved the company of their friends and loved ones.

FaceTime on MacBook
FaceTime on MacBook

Older adults could take advantage of telemedicine and telehealth for numerous doctor and other healthcare appointments without needlessly exposing themselves to the coronavirus. We can still utilize these services, making the difference between some care and no care for rural populations, anyone who can’t travel for medical care and treatment, or immune-compromised persons who want to limit their exposure to others in crowded waiting rooms.

Care Management Solutions

Finally, products and services are available to help families and caregivers manage care for their older adult family members and clients better. Some of their features include:

  • Updates to the family on loved ones’ routines and activities.
  • Direct communication among older adults, caregivers, and their families.
  • Tracking medication consumption.
  • Tracking physical activity.
  • Tracking nutrition and mealtimes.
  • Connecting with smart home devices, wearables, and emergency alert devices, providing additional details about an older adult’s well-being.
StackCare sensors
StackCare sensors

Some of the systems and apps in this category are Serenity Engage, Routinify, StackCare, and Electronic Caregiver. Each has various features like those noted above and requires a monthly subscription.

Numerous technology solutions can provide older adults with a greater sense of safety and security and help families and caregivers stay informed of their elder’s well-being. Contact Prime of Life Tech for help setting up personal safety and smart home technology.