Technology to Help Age in Place
Aging Matters

Last week we published the preliminary data from an academic research project. It's purpose: To explore the predictors of well-being throughout the life course and advance care planning among older adults who identify with the term elder orphan (aging along with limited support) in the U.S.

Over 500 members from the Elder Orphan Facebook Group participated in the mixed methods study. Members are more educated than most (71% have at least a bachelor's degree - compared to 32% of the general population,) are 98% female and have proactively joined the group to discuss issues facing aging alone. Read the study here /featured/aging-alone-study/.

Other discoveries made that were of little surprise was the number of participants who prefer aging at home (49%) over any other place. The second most in demand was living in a tiny house community (29%) with like-minded neighbors.

According to AARP, 90% of older adults nationwide want to remain living in their homes for as long as possible, yet U.S. Census data suggest that many homes are not designed to accommodate the needs of aging homeowners. What's needed are modifications that help with accessibility concerns like walk-in tubs, single-level homes, bathrooms connected with the bedroom, and stepped entries.

Falls is another issue for those who age in place. We found 28 percent of the participants have fallen in the last six months. Older adults take bad tumbles and slips because illnesses and physical conditions can lessen strength and balance. Plus, the side effects of some medicines can upset balance. Medicines for depression, sleep problems and high blood pressure often cause falls.

These are the reasons technology companies now focus a lot of attention on the senior market. Just this week, the acquisition of GreatCall by Best Buy is a significant indicator of the growing role for tech in the longevity market.

The Amazon Alexa and Echo help seniors control the lights and the thermostat in homes. And many even ask Alexa to remind them to take medications. Useful technologies like these give seniors a great deal of independence and peace of mind.

Since the average cost of a nursing home averages $95,000 a year, while assisted-living and in-home care tops $45,000 annually, according to a 2017 Genworth Financial report. These exorbitant costs are driving innovation in technology. However, technology offers more than the tools to live independently but also, the connectedness with faraway family and friends.

Older adults want autonomy, irrespective of age and technology is the answer for that. If it's your goal to remain in the home and be safe, independent and connected, have patience for more solutions to evolve.

The good news, technology will become easier and more fun to use.

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Carol Marak, aging advocate and editor at She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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