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Healthcare’s recent technological innovations could be the answer to helping seniors lead healthy and independent lives at home without causing their family members or healthcare providers to worry about their well-being.

The popular image of an older person being unable to work a computer is the punch line to many jokes, but it might not be relevant for much longer.

According to a study by Pew Research, today’s seniors are great at using technology! In fact, nearly sixty percent of all older adults (65+) have an internet connection, and 71% of those who do have their own Internet connection go online every day. There are also lots of resources for helping seniors to learn computer skills Top 8 Websites To Help Senior Citizens Obtain Basic Internet And Computer Skills Top 8 Websites To Help Senior Citizens Obtain Basic Internet And Computer Skills Many of the elderly tribe fear the computer, but basic computer skills are very easy to learn - more so today when everything is designed to be user-friendly and visually accessible. So let’s head out... Read More .

Why not take advantage of seniors’ computer literacy by enabling them to manage their health through wireless healthcare technologies?

Mobile Healthcare Helps Seniors

Mobile healthcare is a growing trend Smartphone - Smarter Healthcare? [INFOGRAPHIC] Smartphone - Smarter Healthcare? [INFOGRAPHIC] Whoever said that a smartphone is the extension of someone's hand was spot-on. For it seems that everytime someone gets an ache or a pain, the first thing they do is consult their phone or... Read More , and the benefits it offers to older adults are too numerous to ignore.

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Apps, gadgets, and online portals have been developed to enable recovery at home, act as emergency aids, provide virtual house calls, allow preventative monitoring of existing conditions, and to protect older adults with dementia.

By working these technologies into their everyday lives, seniors are able to take control over their health and live independently, physicians are provided with additional data to help them make healthcare decisions, and family members are granted some peace of mind.

Recovery at Home

BioPatch

Recovering after a medical event can be costly, especially if seniors are encouraged to remain in-hospital or in another assisted-living location until their physician is done monitoring their stats.

While it may not be the answer for all seniors (some medical conditions do require assistive care and in-depth monitoring that are unavailable elsewhere!) many individuals who find themselves in this scenario now have an alternative to a lengthy hospital stay that offers greater freedom and the chance to finish their recovery at home.

Zephyr Life is one such alternative – a collection of gadgets and apps that gather information about a patient’s well-being and forward the information through a secure portal and handheld device to their healthcare professionals.

The main technological component to Zephyr Life is the “BioPatch”, a small (1 oz.) electrode that is affixed to the individual’s chest using basic adhesive electrodes, which offers continuous monitoring of activity levels, changes in heart rate or rhythm, respiratory changes, and potential infections.

Data collected from the BioPatch is sent through the Zephyr HealthHub mobile device, and can be accessed through the app that is pre-loaded onto the handheld.

Emergency Aids

MedicalAlert

Wireless emergency aids have come a long way from the old “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials!

Concerns about falling can be a major consideration when deciding whether an older adult should remain in their own home. By using a wireless medical alert system such as those offered by Bay Alarm, you can be confident that older adults will be able to access emergency help easily no matter where they are in the home.

Alert buttons can be purchased as bracelets, pendants, and as a base station. If a fall or other emergency occurs, all the older adult has to do is to push the button on their alert system and an operator will be able to reassure them and contact family or emergency services if required.

Bay Alarm’s alert system works anywhere within a 1000 ft. radius, and there are landline, cellular, and GPS monthly plans available for a very reasonable fee.  Best of all the systems (including the landline system!) can be easily transported to a different location for improved peace of mind no matter where life takes you.

Virtual House Calls

Telemedicine

No matter how wonderful your physician is, getting to an appointment can be a hassle.

Rearranging your schedule, finding transportation, and then waiting for what seems like hours in a crowded waiting room can be a draining experience, and can be even more draining for senior citizens who have mobility concerns, can no longer drive, or who have medical concerns that make leaving the home difficult.

New online portals like Medeo are a fantastic way for older adults to have an appointment with their physician from the comfort of their living room.

While online portals can’t replace the physical assessments a physician is able to do in-person, they are a great replacement for appointments that are intended to arrange a referral for a specialist, renew prescriptions, or to discuss test results.

Medeo is an online portal, so no private information is stored on the mobile device that you use to access the service. It keeps a record of your appointments, and allows you to connect with your existing family doctor (as long as they have also signed up for the service), so that you know you are receiving care from someone who knows and cares about you and your medical journey.

Preventative Monitoring

iHealth

When it comes to healthcare, the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more true.

The best way to ensure that older adults are able to maintain independent living and a high quality of life is to ensure that all of the risk factors for chronic disease (such as high blood pressure, inactivity, obesity, high cholesterol etc.) are under control and at optimal levels.

One of the best all-round monitoring systems for these risk factors is  the iHealth system (although there are also  comparable systems available that aren’t iOS specific).

iHealth offers a wide range of measurement tools, allowing you to track your blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels, measure your weight and body fat percentage, and track your daily activity level.

This health information can be easily integrated with iOS devices iOS 8 Turns Your iPhone Into A Personal Healthcare Monitor iOS 8 Turns Your iPhone Into A Personal Healthcare Monitor Apple's new watch will turn your iPhone into a revolutionary device for managing your health and fitness – here's how it works. Read More , stored and shared with your healthcare provider and family members and used to keep your health on track before any problems have a chance to occur.

Dementia Care

SmartSole

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are becoming a very common problem – it’s estimated that 1 in 7 older adults over 75 have (or will develop) dementia. This is incredibly unfortunate for the individuals who are affected, and can also cause an incredible amount of stress for those who take on a caregiving role (often a spouse or adult child).

One technological innovation that has been incredibly effective in reducing stress for caregivers is the use of wireless healthcare service systems that include GPS tracking to help locate a person with dementia who may have wandered from home or within an unfamiliar location.

One promising product is the GPS Smart Sole – an insole that uses GPS tracking to give information to caregivers in real time. This information can be accessed on a central monitoring website from any mobile device or computer. Having the tracker in a person’s shoe is a great idea as it is far less likely to go missing than a pendant or bracelet.

Hi-Tech Healthcare

The wide array of wireless healthcare products and apps 10 Great Health Apps for the iPhone and iPad 10 Great Health Apps for the iPhone and iPad Read More available is overwhelming, and it’s exciting to think that medical monitoring technology will continue to advance and allow for greater strides in personalized healthcare.

Many of these products do have a high initial investment, but they offer incredible benefits. Not only do they offer physicians, older adults, and concerned family peace of mind, but they also give older adults control over their own medical needs and health. The benefits that these products can offer in preventative healthcare, personal safety, and improved recovery times may be worth the investment!

While the initial transition to technology-based healthcare may be difficult, there are a lot of tricks to make computers accessible for seniors 7 Steps to Make Computers Accessible for the Elderly 7 Steps to Make Computers Accessible for the Elderly Read More and with a little bit of patience your friend or family member will be able to quickly navigate these programs.

It’s also important to mention that while this article is focused on healthcare for older adults, all of these products may be equally helpful for individuals with chronic disease, disabilities, or other unique lifestyle needs.

Have you used any of these products? Would you consider using them in the future? 

  1. Robyn McIntyre
    June 27, 2015 at 4:42 am

    Thanks, Briallyn for the interesting article and for answering comments with cheerfulness, graciousness, and humility. I anticipate great success for you in all your endeavours.

    • Briallyn Smith
      July 30, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Robyn, I just saw this comment now and I am so sorry for the enormously delayed response - thank you so much for your incredibly kind words, they are very, very appreciated :)

  2. DonGateley
    June 26, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Carol's statement. Also, one does not need to be very old before a vitality monitoring system becomes useful. More and more people are living alone and that presents serious potential problems regardless of age.

    • Briallyn Smith
      June 26, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Thanks don! I wish I had had more time to expand on the other populations who could definitely benefit from this kind of healthcare monitoring - one of those situations where I don't think I ever could have been completely inclusive, so choosing a single population seemed like the best way to go! :)
      I definitely understand your and carols concerns - see my response to her below.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Carol Elkins
    June 26, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Brialyn,

    You are young and may not be familiar with the terms "agism" and "agist." They refer to prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly. Agist and other current "ist" words like racist or sexist describe things that are offensive to members of that group. This article contains a lot of very useful information. However, many seniors may not get past "Granny" and be offended by it. Terms like "Granny" connote senile, helpless individuals.

    The information in your article can be very useful to seniors as well as persons with disabilities and health conditions that require monitoring. Good journalism requires you to be aware of your audience and sensitive to terminology and usage that may deter your audience from taking full value from the information you provide. You targeted seniors in this article, which was perfectly okay, but the article has broader appeal. "Keeping Grammy Safe" was unnecessary. "Wireless Health Care at Home Saves Lives" was right on target.

    • Briallyn Smith
      June 26, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      Carol, thank you so much for your comment.
      I definitely should have thought about the connotations of the term "Grammy" to others - my offline job actually involves me working closely with and advocating for seniors in a healthcare field, so while I do have a very clear understanding of ageism and ageist practices in our society, I am very thankful to have your insight! when I selected this article to write about I didn't consider the term "Grammy" to be offensive as it is what I call my own, much beloved and respected grandmother. I've sent a message to my editor about changing the title so that readers who are older adults are hopefully not deterred from continuing through the article.
      Best wishes,
      Briallyn

  4. fcd76218
    June 26, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Any remote monitoring or examination of patients that involves the use of WiFi may run afoul of the Privacy provisions of HIPAA.

    • Briallyn Smith
      June 26, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      Excellent point! It will be fascinating to see how our society, wireless technology, and HIPPA regulations change as a response to this technology!

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