What if a home could proactively sense changes inside and react according to the needs of its occupants? What if the wellbeing of the elderly was communicated in real-time to family members separated thousands of miles away? All this and more is possible today thanks to next generation technology based on smart systems and assisted living for the elderly, which helps them live independently and significantly reduces caregiver pressures.
At the forefront of such systems are GPS trackers. These systems can be utilized by the elderly with special needs such as dementia and Alzheimer’s and provide instant real-time alerts on their location to family members or caregivers. These devices come in all shapes and sizes, right from a tiny GPS tracker to a GPS shoe, with notifications sent in through text messages or emails, and are easily accessible over a PC or smartphone.
According to a recent survey, about 10% of the world’s population is over the age of 60 and this figure is expected to double by 2050. The increasing number of elderly is bound to affect the healthcare budgets of governments worldwide. The US federal government for instance spends close to USD 2.7 trillion annually on healthcare and this figure is likely to go up. Institutionalization of the elderly also adds to the fiscal burden of governments’ worldwide and there is a growing need for technology that can help the elderly live independently.
Smart homes are a viable option for the elderly and disabled who prefer to stay in the comfort of their homes rather than move into an expensive healthcare facility. The smart home environment has built-in systems for intruder detection, fall prevention or detection, medicine administration, personal alarms, and everyday assistance with tasks around the home. Additionally, they use smart sensors, optical recognition units, and home automation elements to monitor factors such as eating and drinking patterns, health parameters, and potentially dangerous situations. Smart homes also allow families or caregivers to track several activity patterns or events—when doors were opened, what time a person got in and out of bed, and opening or closing of medicine cabinets. This data is sent out via e-mail, text message or voice mail to a family member or caregiver for improved supervision of the elderly.
Researchers in Europe are also continuously improving and fine-tuning an automated carer system specially targeted at the elderly. The system comprising of a robot companion, wearable smart clothes, and a smart home environment, can assist the elderly in their day-to-day household chores. The robot emulates the role of a real-life caregiver by reminding older adults to take their medication or perform certain activities such as a call or visit to someone who has not heard from them for a while. The smart clothes can monitor vital signs or sleeping patterns, and detect falls.