A technology boom for elderly care is underway. For the sandwich generation — the 54% of Americans now caring for aging loved ones while raising children – the latest technology tools can provide a watchful eye, constant connection and comfort on both sides, knowing you’ll be there when your parents need you most.
For people over 75 who want to live the rest of their lives in their own home, gadgets can help them maintain their independence for longer, while ensuring safety and comfort. None of this has to cost a fortune or be too complicated; many studies show older people who simply use the Internet are less prone to depression.
Here are some of the best new tech tools to help our aging parents age gracefully and gadgets.
1. A roommate robot
ElliQ ($249.99 and $29.99 per month) is a friendly little companion robot that sits on a base next to a tablet and comes to life when you use it, either by saying “its” name or simply by your physical presence in the room. “Elle” speaks in a natural, conversational language – much like a cross between Siri and Wall-E – and is billed as the first “digital care companion designed specifically for seniors 65 and older”.
If she feels something is wrong, she can call for help from a pre-programmed list of primary contacts. She can also start a video call and send text messages. With onboard AI, ElliQ can pick up patterns, learn daily routines, and remember what you tell it, which adds a level of empathy and personalization to the whole experience.
2. Tablets designed for people aged 75 and over
The GrandPad ($57 per month) is a high-tech tablet designed specifically for people who might otherwise be tech-disabled. It’s pre-programmed with easy-to-see categories, so all you have to do is plug it in and go. Built-in 4G LTE on board means it can connect anytime, anywhere, without worrying about WiFi.
It’s a “no-frills” gadget with built-in games, music streaming, private family photo and video streams, and an easy-to-use video chat app for group calls. In the event of a problem, a simple click brings up a support agent at any time of the day or night.
3. Animatronic Animals
Studies show that pets contribute to overall health, fighting against loneliness and social isolation. To get the joy of a pet without the work, check out Ageless Innovations’ Joy for All Companion animatronic pals, including the all-new Walker Squawker ($64.99, available June).
This latest animatronic pet is the brainchild of 93-year-old Rita Melone. She brought the concept to Ageless Innovations after she forgot to use her walker when she got up. She wanted something small enough to perch on her real metal walker, but comfortable enough to live with on a daily basis.
The Walker Squawker joins the already popular Ageless Innovation Pups and Cats. Puppies bark and cats meow, turn their heads at the sound of your voice and respond to touch. You even feel a heartbeat when you hug them.
4. A proactive pill box
The Hero Pill Dispenser ($99.99 one-time fee and $29.99 per month, or $24.99 per month if you pay in advance) is a countertop device about the size of a small coffee maker. It stores, sorts and dispenses up to 90 days supply of 10 different medications.
You can pour pills into a cartridge and slip it into the dispenser without having to count or sort anything – it’s all automatic. The companion app sends alerts when it’s time to take a dose and provides real-time compliance data to caregivers and families caring for loved ones.
One of the only downsides is that you have to configure everything with arrows, compared to the simpler push-to-program touchscreen. For this reason, it requires more setup than most other gadgets on this list.
5. The new generation of “I fell and I can’t get up!”
LifeStation Sidekick Mobile Medical Alert
Falls and accidents, at home or on the go, are a huge problem for seniors trying to lead independent lives. 1 in 4 seniors fall each year According to the CDCmaking falls the leading cause of injury-related death among older adults in the United States. It’s an alarming number, but personal medical devices like the LifeStation Sidekick ($37.95 per month) can help.
The Sidekick is a small, lightweight portable with a help button that summons emergency help at any time. With built-in GPS and advanced fall detection, it knows when help is needed and directs responders to the exact location.
For a preview of what’s to come in this category, check out the Tango belt (currently in clinical trials). This ‘smart belt’ can detect a serious hip impact fall, deploy airbags around the hips and alert caregivers for help. It’s in the middle of a clinical trial and should be out next year.
6. Support in the form of a technical “friend”
Father is an online service that is called “the first organized platform of companionship and support for seniors and families.” The company works directly with insurers and employers to help ease the burden for someone whose aging spouse or loved ones may need extra care.
They call caregivers “Dad Pals”, which is a network of people vetted, trained and trusted to provide companionship and daily support to underserved and overstretched people. Pals earn between $20 and $25 an hour, and the program is available in all 50 states.
7. And sometimes it’s just the little things…
The simplest daily tasks can often become the most taxing endeavors for seniors. While not incredibly high-tech, some of these easy-to-find, inexpensive gadgets offer great help to people who need it most. smart plugs, voice-activated speakers and even inexpensive smart sensors can be a big help.
The Foot Funnel shoehorn is a great example. It’s great for putting on shoes because, unlike a traditional shoe horn, you position it around the opening of the shoe before you even start putting it on. The “foot funnel” opens the show and guides your foot, all without bending down. And when you’re done, an attached lanyard lets you retrieve the device simple with a slight pull from a seated or standing position.