How wearable tech can enhance senior living

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Chris Holbert
Chris Holbert

Many assume that long-term care is only for senior citizens. In reality, there are a variety of reasons young and old people alike can require assistance with daily activities and medical needs. However, older adults do make up the largest percentage of populations requiring ongoing care services.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.4 million people receive support from the five main types of senior living and long-term care providers each year. These include residential care communities (713,300), adult day service centers (273,200), home health agencies (4.7 million), nursing homes (1.4 million) and hospices (1.2 million). Although nothing can replace face-to-face interactions between residents and care and service providers, technology can help enhance caregiving and even improve outcomes in certain situations.

Often, the decision to move into a senior living facility is made due to failing health, the death of a spouse or the general wearing out of the body. At age 65, normal daily activities might be easy, but by their mid-70s, many people start noticing problems with balance, arthritis and strength. Tasks that used to be simple may seem more challenging, and more accidents begin to occur.

An active lifestyle can be hampered by the risk of falls and other health issues. One in four adults aged more than 65 years falls each year, according to CDC data. And as people age, they are also more likely to develop symptoms caused by diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

Many older adults retain a certain amount of independence after moving into a senior living facility and on any given day could be on a walk around the grounds, running errands to the local grocery store or taking part in any number of other activities that put them outside of a care provider's reach.

Normally, if an accident occurred in a situation such as this, the care provider would not know until the person missed a meal or medical check-in. Precious minutes of response time could be lost without the aid of clinical wearable devices.

Many people already are familiar with fitness wearables that track their steps and caloric burn. But these consumer devices are not designed to provide critical lines of communication and medial intelligence needed between a care provider and residents. Another technology senior living facilities could consider for residents is mPERS, which stands for mobile personal emergency response system.

Although they share some functionality with cellphones, such as the ability to place a call for help, mPERS devices are more versatile and feature-specific. Typically, a smartphone only has enough battery life for a few days of use, and unless a specialty application or feature is enabled on the phone, it cannot be used to locate a person easily. Smartphones also cannot detect if an accident such as a fall occurs, nor can it place an automatic call for help.

mPERS devices not only are to detect a fall. They go beyond the capabilities of a cellphone and are able to auto-dial family or a response team for help if a fall occurs.

The battery life of mPERS devices is superior to smartphones, lasting up to 30 days in sleep mode. Most devices feature an SOS button that can easily be pressed in an emergency without the need to focus on dialing numbers. Caregivers of residents with dementia also could benefit from the on-demand location services of mPERS devices. An mPERS device can be relied on to accurately provide a resident's location to family members or a caregiver, all with a simple press of a button.

mPERS devices are not the outdated “senior” technology many people are familiar with — the button you wear and push when you fall. This type of technology only works within a certain range or a central call box.

If a person falls in the yard or needs navigational assistance away from a senior living community, this technology cannot be activated to call for help. On the other hand, mPERS devices are designed to work anywhere and feature a two-way speaker so caregivers can speak and listen to the resident. mPERS are an all-in-one solution that can help deliver peace of mind and improve security and quality of life for aging adults and their caregivers.

mPERS should be viewed as a tool that can enhance life, not make a person feel old and feeble. They can help caregivers monitor resident location in an emergency and enable care to be mobile, fitting each persons activity level and preferred lifestyle.

Overall, senior residents, their families and care providers are all given peace of mind knowing the mPERS device provides a lifeline to help should one ever be needed. 

Chris Holbert is the CEO of SecuraTrac, where he is responsible for leading the company's vision of developing, marketing and selling a suite of mobile health and safety solutions that bring families closer together and improve employee safety through state-of-the-art location-based services and mobile health technology. Before starting SecuraTrac in 2008, Holbert was the COO and CIO of LaunchPad Communications, served as the CIO for North American Scientific and held senior consulting positions for Ernst & Young and American Management Systems. Holbert has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political theory from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Masters in Public Finance degree from the University of Chicago.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes marketplace columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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