There are many difficulties that older people often face as the years take their toll, but modern technology can help more than many would think. The main difficulties that face older people who wish to remain living in their own homes are usually connected with mobility, illness and cognitive functioning, for example difficulties with remembering things. There is a wealth of technology now available that can assist with most of these difficulties and in what follows we will look at some examples. Sometimes called ‘assistive technology’ the systems available now can provide many ways of helping an older person in their day to day life as well as providing much needed support to those who are acting as carers.
What follows is a brief look at what can actually be provided; this is followed by looking at specific systems in more depth.
Everybody wants to feel safe and for older people and those who care for them this is of even more importance, especially for those living alone. Mobile and cordless telephones have made it easier for people to stay in touch and call for help when needed but there are systems available that build on this. There is a range of sensors and computer monitor systems that will raise an alert in a number of circumstances without someone having to make a telephone call or press a button. These can be set to monitor everything from physical functioning, such as heart rate, to activity and movement or lack of it, conditions within the home and even callers at the door.
Modern medicine has achieved wonders and in a very real sense helps to extend and improve quality of life; but older people can sometimes find themselves prescribed with a bewildering number of medicines to be taken at particular times throughout the day. There are devices – sometimes knows as ‘stand alone’ devices, that can help with this by providing reminders and prompts when it is time to take a particular medicine. For those who are able to use a smartphone there are apps (Pillboxie is one) available that will also issue reminders of when medication should be taken.
Mobility in and out of the home
We all take for granted how simple it is to turn on a light when we need to move around in the dark, but for some older people even this can prove difficult. Technology offers some solutions for this with devices that can be operated remotely to turn on lights and other devices without the need for moving and bending. Moving in the dark to find a light switch can present a serious danger to the more frail and physically impaired and remote switching devices can help to reduce the dangers.
Being trapped within the home is difficult for anybody and it is important that the mobility of an older person is maintained as much as possible. Apart from physical difficulties, problems with memory can reduce mobility considerably. For those who suffer from confusion or memory loss even a short walk to a corner can be a daunting and distressing prospect, but there are now systems available that help locate a person (very much in the way that other GPS location systems such as sat nav and mobile phone navigation aps do) and allow them to ask for help when needed.