Appliances That Speak to Each Other, and Other Incredible Aging-in-Place Technology

Robear Robot

When Carol’s mother, Eleanor, had a stroke a few years back, she and her husband moved in with her. Eleanor was not very steady on her feet, and surfed the furniture to get around. Carol and her husband were always worried about her falling, especially in the bathroom. They became reluctant to leave her alone so, like Eleanor, they too became housebound.

Carol and her husband realized that with their own day-to-day responsibilities, the situation wasn’t ideal. Carol’s husband, Jeff, is in IT, so he set up some motion sensors around Eleanor’s house and linked them to a computer. He also set up a system to send a text message to his and Carol’s cell phone, when Eleanor was in the bathroom for more than 30 minutes. With this and other age-in-place technology, Carol and her husband were able to care for her mother and have peace of mind, while resuming their own productive lives. 

Last week’s AARP Life@50+ National Event in Miami explored some of the newest technology startups and their inventions. Below are some examples:

• Ollo Wearables: Controlled by voice, Ollo is a wearable 4G smartphone that combines a personal digital assistant with real time health monitoring. 

• AlzhUp seeks to improve the quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s by integrating actual memories and scientifically-proven therapies in a single platform, slowing the cognitive decline of the patient, as well as facilitating the active participation of the entire family and care team in the treatment process. 

• Video-call doctors’ visits are a boon to those who live in rural areas. The technology extends patient care beyond the office, enables patients to access previously inaccessible specialists, and reduces travel for patients needing frequent visits. According to USA Today, about 10 million people already rely on telemedicine, often from doctors who live in another state.

• Robots as caregivers: A Japanese engineer has developed a Robot-Teddy Bear. It looks adorable and is intended to perform tasks like lifting an elderly person out of bed and helping them stand up or move into a wheelchair. Robear is the brainchild of Toshiharu Mukai, head of the Robot Sensor Systems Research Team at the Riken-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research since 2007. Health workers typically perform the lifting task with patients about 40 times a day.

•  LED light handbag: Can’t find your keys at the bottom of your purse. No problem. Forgot to charge your phone. No worries. Companies such as Ralph Lauren are releasing stylish handbags with lights and chargers inside to accomplish both these things.

Sensor technology:  Motion sensors monitor the speed and frequency of movement throughout the house and can let a caregiver know if someone hasn’t gotten out of bed. The sensors can also track when seniors visit the fridge to make sure they are eating. And sensors near the stove know if a pot was removed and the burner left on. “In the future, expect sensors that alert you to things like the garage door being left open or that the front door is unlocked. Finders for the TV remote, the telephone, and your car keys will all be a standard part of home design. Lights will turn on as soon as your feet hit the floor when you get up to use the bathroom at 1 a.m. Appliances will “speak” to each other: Your refrigerator will send your TV a message saying you left its door open.” (source: Huffington Post)


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