McKnight's Senior Living, Feature 2, December 2018, Information Technology

Resident security in senior living today bears no resemblance to what it was just a decade ago. Locks and alarms — the stuff that long have defined resident security — always will be relevant. But thanks to world-class human engineering and the internet of things, resident security is person-centered tech on steroids — giving rise to a world of devices that integrate established and emerging technology to give older adults themselves control they’ve never had over their daily activities and lives.

Today, resident security tech is giving a new generation of seniors an unprecedented level of independence and safety — two concepts that until recently rarely worked well together.


  • Personal alert systems that allow people to live their lives with confidence while having the peace of mind to summon medical help at the push of a button.
  • Wearable personal monitors that not only promote wellness and physical activity but trigger alarms when irregular heartbeats are detected.
  • High-tech sensors and other devices, concealed in clothing or inside walls, that reliably can predict everything from falls to urinary tract infections.
  • Elopement warning devices that allow seniors to move freely about a property while giving caregivers the ability to intervene at a moment’s notice.
  • Social engagement devices and apps that enable seniors to live independently while connected with loved ones at the push of a button, something mounting evidence is proving can promote wellness and reduce the risk of depression, and even stave off dementia.

This tech revolution has given newfound freedom and security to older adults both aging in place and inside independent and assisted living communities.

“Moving to a senior living community can be a highly vulnerable time in seniors’ lives,” says Syed Ahmed, senior living segment leader for Philips Aging & Caregiving. “During this time, seniors may feel that joining this new setting decreases their level of independence, and the change can lower their confidence and self-esteem. By leveraging the right types of integrated technology, senior living community leaders can help residents maintain and build their independence and feel more confident.”

Adds Majd Alwan, Ph.D., senior vice president of technology for LeadingAge and executive director of the Center for Aging Services Technologies: “These technologies all contribute to the older adult’s sense of safety and the peace of mind of their caregivers and loved ones. This is especially true for older adults at heightened risk of falling or wandering, like older adults with dementia, particularly. Obviously, safety technologies support independence, too.” Alwan and his team at LeadingAge recently released an online portfolio of tools to help providers understand, plan for and select safety technologies that meet their requirements and needs.

A closer look

Looking deeper into new and emerging resident security tech reveals just how engineers have exploited the capabilities of IoT and in some cases, applications borne out of military research.

• Global positioning and real-time location services.

GPS is being applied to myriad devices in senior living. Almost a decade ago, engineers found a way to embed chips inside sneaker soles to find memory-addled residents who wandered into the night. Today, GPS can be found in everything from wristband wearables to emergency call pendants.

Several companies have merged various types of resident security tech into a single solution.
Stanley Healthcare’s Arial and WanderGuard Blue “give administrators and caregivers accurate, timely location information so they can respond quickly and appropriately,” according to Mike Webster, director of senior living products.

Philips Aging & Caregiving’s restraint-free wander management system uses GPS, fall detection technology and two-way voice communication to alert others via mobile tech. Ahmed says the company’s resident safety system features geo-fencing, which allows staff to control residents’ physical access across the community for wander management and other safety concerns.

With the help of vector technology and GPS, “resident wandering and emergency call technology can pinpoint a room level or even chair level status and send notifications to staff,” says Laura Wasson, director of healthcare and owner of Tech Electronics. 

• Artificial intelligence.

Machine learning and AI already are embedded tech in a limited number of resident security devices. Its potential is nearly limitless.

CarePredict describes itself as an AI- driven digital health company that has developed a deep learning platform to provide insights into seniors’ health by collecting data points using a smart wearable and smart remote sensors. To Jerry Wilmink, Ph.D., chief business officer, current technology that relies on a “finite number of data points a human can both observe and remember” limits the ability to have continuous visibility so crucial to detecting changes in activity and behavior patterns in a timely fashion.

• Data analytics.

Some say aggregating data is at the heart of the current healthcare revolution and its drive toward resident-centered care. Personalizing resident security is providing a direct data pipeline from people to powerful computers.

“Across the board, these solutions, like wander management and personal alerts, are giving senior living administrators access to a wealth of data that they can review and analyze,” Webster says. 

Wilmink said CarePredict is using data culled from AI to predict the occurrence of a urinary tract infection 3.7 days, on average, before it is diagnosed, and is also expanding predictive analytics to more issues such as depression, malnutrition risk and others.

Ahmed said with Philips’ recent acquisition of the Blue Willow advanced data analytics platform, “senior living communities can offer residents an even greater sense of independence than ever before.” The company’s wrist-worn devices automatically can detect falls and can be used to call for help at any time.

Top priority

Ask relatively healthy seniors and they will say “independence.” Ask the frail elderly and “safety” usually trumps.

“My sense is that independence ranks higher than safety for seniors, even if they’re more frail,” says Todd Stanley, senior product manager for Inovonics. “However, once an adverse event happens, safety will become more important as the risk becomes real to them.”

“In senior living communities, the word independence can have layers of meaning, whether it’s residents recovering from surgery or [who are] unstable for other reasons,” adds Lila Corwin, senior vice president, marketing communications, for Biodex Medical Systems, who adds that her company’s products provide equal measures of both safety and mobility, which translates to independence for so many.

Others in the resident security space, meanwhile, have equally fascinating perspectives.

For example, SecureCare, which regards itself as a wander management pioneer in senior living, considered both when it entered the market 40 years ago. “Being able to add a layer of safety and security while maintaining a resident’s independence, dignity and freedom of movement was key,” says Michele York, the product marketing manager for Secure Care.

In some cases, utility considerations often govern the level of freedom they provide, says Danielle Myers, general manager of Status Solutions. “In most cases, safety solutions promote mobility and therefore support independence,” she says.