These days, we have modern medicine to thank for longevity. But with this long life comes a need to live independently as long as possible. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, DeStatis, there will be a deficit of 260,000 caregivers until 2025. And Germany is not alone with this problem – the need for more caregivers is a worldwide issue.
WT products could offer solutions to this problem by helping people 65 and over to remain independent and to regain freedom as they age.
One of the best ways to remain independent is to practice prevention. Wearable devices that encourage elderly people to live a healthier lifestyle could improve fitness and health for years. Some of the less complicated versions of the activity monitors we presented in our newsletter in May are most suitable for seniors, and provide a relatively pleasant way to improve fitness. Some of these can also serve to keep a better overview of daily activities.
Other sensory applications, such as fall sensors or emergency buttons, can prevent some of the more minor ailments from becoming much worse and assist in emergency situations. Tunstall offers a nice range of easy-to-use sensory products for elderly people. The fact that they are so user friendly is no small thing for the generation that did not grow up with the plethora of technical toys and gadgets on the market today.
In fact, according to the federal association Bitkom, the easy operation of a device is one of the key factors the elderly consider when shopping for any device. The 65+ age group is also important to the quickly-growing mobile phone and smartphone industry. Even though some seniors are quite sceptical about these omnipresent, wearable computers, they are beginning to see the huge benefits won from these personal electronic assistants. These devices can assist in emergency situations and be jam-packed with apps tailored to the wearer’s wishes and requirements.
A number of products on the market for people with memory loss can help seniors to regain a bit of autonomy. One example is a wearable camera by Vicon Revue, discussed in detail in this issue of the Wearable Technologies newsletter. Other helpful gadgets for seniors include Everon’s VEGA bracelet with integrated Telit module to provide safer strolls for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive disorders. The bracelets sound an automatic alarm if the wearer walks outside of a preset “safe zone”. The system also features an RF home base that indicates to the Vega bracelet that the wearer is at home.
The commercialization of wearable electronic care devices coupled with telecare solutions will be an important next step for the age care sector. Chronic disease sufferers, especially, need regular support. For them, this chronic disease means constant supervision, which comes along with a great loss of freedom. But the industry is busy coming up with solutions to give patients more independence. BodyTel offers a system that combines devices for glucose, blood pressure and weight monitoring, and can communicate with a smartphone. Grandcare offers a telehealth system that, amongst others, works with motion sensors.
Finally there are complete ambient assisted living solutions on the market that can communicate with sensors worn on the patient’s body. Medcottage (link not found) is a small, ambient assisted-living cottage that can be set up in the garden of the senior’s family. Another already commercially available solution is the C.A.R.E. System, a retirement home with ambient assisted living functions.
In addition, several research projects in the area of ambient assisted living indicate the importance of further developing these technologies. These include “Aware Home”, a project of GeorgiaTech university, several ambient assisted living projects funded by the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung and the “inHaus” project being conducted by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute.