Early adopters of technology are usually assumed to be the young and eager. But an increasing number of gadgets are designed not for the stereotypical technophile but for the elderly person. And why not? Between 2010 and 2050 the U.S. population of people aged 65 and up will more than double, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts.
Smart, networked sensors and monitors—part of what is known as the Internet of Things—could help make seniors more independent by letting doctors or relatives keep tabs from afar. “We have received significant interest from elder care providers who are seeking to keep the elderly in their homes rather than moving them to assisted-living centers,” says technologist Jason Johnson, chair of the Internet of Things Consortium. The market for remote patient monitoring is expected to grow from $10.6 billion in 2012 to $21.2 billion in 2017, according to research firm Kalorama Information.
Among the new systems to enter the market is a set of sensors called Lively. The sensors can be placed on cabinets, drawers or appliances to track activity patterns and send data to loved ones.
Other technologies have a slightly different aim—to help those who live in senior communities remain in the most independent setting possible. The eNeighbor remote-monitoring system, marketed by Healthsense, uses sensors throughout the residence to detect motion (including falls) and to chart bed rest. eNeighbor can also provide reminders for medication or make distress calls in case of an emergency.
The fear of being put in a nursing home is “the number-one thing people cite about growing old,” Lively CEO Iggy Fanlo says. But with assistive technology for the home taking off, seniors may be able to live on their own for longer than they thought.