The first wave of 76 million Baby Boomers turned 65 years old in 2011. By 2030 all boomers will officially be "seniors," representing a whopping 20% of the population according to estimates of the U.S. Census Bureau. The "big footprint" of the aging boomer is undeniable and will have a significant impact on everything from the economy to healthcare to technology. Yes, technology.
Improved healthcare and lifestyle habits (fewer smokers for instance) are resulting in longer lifespans on average. As they age, boomers tend to want to work longer, be more active, live in their homes longer and remain as independent for as long as possible. One of the major goals of technology is to allow people to "age in place" safely in their homes when possible. There are technologies available now that can both assist a caregiver concerned about a loved one and also allow the senior to achieve more independence than ever imagined.
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR THE EVERYDAY
Assistive Technology or Adaptive Devices can enhance safety, mobility and make daily living tasks easier. These tools range from something as simple as a hearing aid or hoist for lifting to more sophisticated devices like sensors that monitor vital signs remotely or detect when a person has fallen. There are also web applications--"apps"--available on a computer or cell phone that help a long distance caregiver get emergency help, track medications and even provide pain management.
The Family Caregiver Alliance provides a comprehensive resource for assistive technology options for caregivers and their loved ones
Elder Care Robots may represent the cutting edge of high-tech help for seniors. For now. The AgeLab at MIT is dedicated to creating technology to help seniors live not only longer but better. The tech innovators also help companies understand that just because a person is getting older does not mean they just want enlarged numbers and letters or clunky handles on the devices. While still in the early stages of development, some of the robots conceived will aim to literally ease the burden of caregiving for their human "friends." Consider the difference a mechanical helper could make if you need to lift a loved one out of a bathtub?
Assistive Technology to help with medical and daily living needs is great, but some companies are looking to address a wide range of interests and needs of aging boomers. Wii has a bowling game that gives seniors play time while providing low impact exercise, social interaction and mental stimulation - all critical for youthful aging. The game is so popular that there is a virtual Wii bowling league: the National Senior League already has 150 teams in 26 states.
In Los Angeles, the Exergamers Wellness Club, a comprehensive health-and-wellness program developed by Partners in Care, utilizes two Microsoft products, Kinect for Xbox 360 and HealthVault. Xbox Kinect offers seniors an opportunity to exercise and socialize while playing virtual games. Seniors engage in tournaments with local club members and with members of a senior center in New York. The HealthVault software gives seniors the ability to upload readings from health-monitoring devices that they can then share, at their discretion, with family members or other caregivers.
AGING IN PLACE
Housing help is another emerging area of innovation in assistive technology. There are companies that specialize in home modifications to make it safe for an elderly or frail loved. There are also innovative designs for prefab homes you can put up in your backyard to keep a loved one close without having them move in. Pacific Modem Homes Inc. offers a "low cost aging in place" option they describe as "transitional housing." The petite residence can be put up for about $60,000, including electrical and plumbing. Pacific Home's vice president of marketing Ken Rader claims the kit-homes are "infinitely adjustable" to the various stages of aging.
Aginginplace.com is the brainchild of Patrick Roden. The former nurse and trained gerontologist says his goal is to help people "age in place" by providing helpful information for home modification and tips on where to find help if needed.
Boomers could not be aging at a better time as technology is poised to make it a safe, healthy, comfortable...and long trip.
For more Information:
Aging In Place
Apps for Caregivers
Health & Safety Technology
http://NY Times, "In A Graying Population, Business Opportunity"
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