Feature Stories

Technology for Aging in Place

How to Stay Connected While Keeping Independent

I recently attended a panel discussion hosted at TLC Homecare in South Burlington on the subject of aging in place. Following the panel discussion was Q&A where the question was raised, “What’s your favorite technology that allows boomers and seniors age in place?” A lively discussion ensued on how current mainstream technology offers not only the tools people need to age in place independently, but can offer expanded confidence and connectedness family and friends.

As this is one of my favorite topics, I chimed into the discussion with one of my favorite pieces of tech for seniors; the Apple Watch.  I know this technology well and recently got one for my own mother after she mentioned to me that she’s had a number of “spills” lately on her routine morning walk.  My mom is healthy and spry and is just in her mid-70s, but she lives alone and very far away from me. We all know people who have fallen and spent too much time on the ground without being able to access help so I was rather alarmed at her revelation of falls.  She and I discussed the Life-Alert option and she flatly said “No way, I’m far too young for that!”

I had recently read a review of the latest Apple Watch (series 4 and 5) that I was considering for myself when I read about the watch’s fall-detection technology that will call 9-1-1 in the event of a fall – in or out of the home.  Beyond the fall-detection technology, the Apple Watch also has electrocardiogram (ECG) technology that can give the wearer early notice of cardiac abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation.

The Apple Watch is a cool product for all people that choose to wear one; from teens, Wall Street types, and seniors alike.  Thanks to advancing technology, we now have products with sophisticated fall-detection, and ECG technology that still screams that you are still very savvy and cool. My mom jumped at the chance to get hers and she loves it for a multitude of reasons but none greater than for the confidence and surety that it brings all without the optics of wearing a Life-Alert. As her son, I know that it’s keeping her safe, and ultimately, more independent.

As a real estate agent for seniors, I spend a lot of time in my client’s homes and I’ve noticed more and more voice-assistive technologies like the Amazon Echo and how they play a larger role in helping seniors age in place. Many of my clients don’t hesitate to have their Alexa remind them when it’s time to take their medicine and not to forget about appointments and regularly scheduled events. Some of my clients take dozens of pills a day – To keep it all straight, I’ve learned that there are specific Alexa apps like Medisafe, a tool that reminds people when it’s time to take their next dose, whether to take the pills with water or food, and what side effects might be attributable to the medication.

I recently helped my clients Ron and Kathy Jensen downsize from a classic colonial, into a single level living condo close to all the services Chittenden County has to offer.  Ron is a quintessential tech savvy boomer and had a very successful career in IT Management for several Fortune 500 companies in and outside of the U.S.  When it was time to outfit his newly-constructed condo, Ron made sure to incorporate several pieces of home automation technology to make their lives better.  Ron can control his thermostats, lights, and security-system from home through his voice activated Alexa, or with a few clicks on his smartphone from anywhere in the World.  Ron admits that hasn’t connected nearly all of the possible devices, including light switches, stating “I don’t want everything automated yet, because I still need a reason to stand up.”

Another piece of technology from Amazon making a splash in 2020 in the elder community is the Amazon Show.  This is a tablet based device that is similar to the Echo and allows you to set reminders and control connected devices. But the most exciting aspect of the Show, is the video conferencing capability. Using just your voice, you can ask it to call another Amazon Show virtually anywhere in the world.  We’ve had this basic technology for a while with services like FaceTime and Skype, but with the simplicity of voice command, easy package and very low price options, it has never been easier to stay connected with friends and family for regular checks-ins or to connect quickly if help is needed.

To conclude, when it comes to technology, sometimes it’s better to have a device that works for the masses rather than one that caters to your specific age group niche.  Much of today’s best technology has a broad appeal for people of all ages but the senior specific functions can make these devices the best options for today’s savvy boomers and seniors at prices that within reach for most consumers.  We may not have flying cars as predicted Hanna & Barbara’s Jetson’s cartoon, but the latest iteration of technology offers not only the tools people need to age in place independently, but this technology allows us to do it well; with confidence and greater connectedness to family and friends.

Ben Durant is a Senior Real Estate Specialist® and Owner of Transitions Real Estate. He is dedicated to helping Vermont Seniors and Boomers find their best housing solutions. Ben lives with his wife and three children in Williston. He can be contacted by visiting BenTransitionsvt.com or by calling 802.355.6688.

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