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Senior Citizen's Guide to Baltimore

Technology
Its Place in Aging Services

According to data from the United Nations, the global population of individuals ages 60 and over is more than 700 million. That was in 2006. Today, estimates push that number to 1.25 billion by 2025 – nearly double. And by 2050 the population of aging Baby Boomers is projected to soar to 2 billion. In an age where more and more Boomers are connected to a wired world, the demand for advanced technology in aging services has reached an all-time peak. The technology that was once a business necessity (web-ready phones, teleconferencing, etc.) has transformed into a necessity – one that must also be integrated as part of basic care processes in assisted and independent living facilities.

This undeniable need for technology as a standard part of aging services hasn’t been around long, as fifty years ago, families were not as quick to place elderly relatives in assisted or independent living facilities. More often than not, elderly parents would live with adult children – or in close proximity to immediate family members, so they could be watched over and cared for.

Presently, a growing number of families find more comfort in placing elderly loved ones in independent or assisted living facilities as the care level is simply at a higher level than what they are able to provide. Senior citizen often find they are able to have more freedom and independence in a community. With more families searching for senior care facilities or communities for their loved ones, they are searching for those who provide top-tier, quality care for their residents including the best technology possible.

Independent and assisted Living facilities are integrating a variety of advanced technology services into our care processes to ensure staff provides the best care possible for residents, and that our facility runs smoothly and effectively. One example is a passive activity monitoring system used to monitor residents’ daily activity patterns and detect changes that may signal potential health issues or emergency situations. The system uses non-intrusive motion sensors (no cameras or microphones) to capture a resident’s actions, allowing privacy and independence to be maintained. Without any invasion of privacy, the system captures behaviors which can help to analyze and detect early stages of illness.

It acts as a second set of eyes, and is a complement to our staff’s work, not a replacement. The system monitors activities such as when a senior goes into the bathroom, gets out of bed, etc. In the past, the system has alerted caregiving staff to the early onset of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in residents. This is important, as UTIs, if undetected, can lead to unfortunate falls and/or hospitalization. It also detects temperatures and can alert staff if the temperature has become too high or too low in a resident’s room. Oftentimes, the residents are unaware of the temperatures, which can put them in much risk.

Many facilities are integrating automated medication dispensers into their organizations. The dispensers have alarms that not only alert the patient when to take their medication, but release locked drawers that open with the correct amount of medication. This helps seniors living in independent and assisted living facilities manage their medications more thoroughly as well as shows the staff if the resident took their medication or not. If a senior can’t medicate oneself, this technology helps them still maintain independence by allowing them take their medicines on time.

Electronic medical records (e-records) are the wave of the future, but aren’t right for everyone yet. At present, e-records programs aren’t consistent from one facility to the next. When transferring the files, the records are oftentimes missing key information. In order to be as effective as possible, there must be a mandated standard format that all facilities must adhere to. I believe this will happen soon, and look forward to it.

Automated scheduling systems for transportation have also become a popular technology amongst assisted living facilities. As residents love to have activities that take them outside the constraints of their home, the most efficient and organized way to schedule their transportation is through automated systems. This is also helpful for volunteer organizations, such as Meals on Wheels, by utilizing MapQuest it can expedite the meal delivery process to ensure residents are getting their hot meals hot, and their cold meals cold.

Fitness apparatus’ - recumbent cross trainers, video controlled stationary bikes, etc. - have revolutionized senior care. Before, it was hard to get seniors to want to use fitness equipment on their own. With advancements such as interactive video graphs, more residents have added exercise to their daily activities. Even technologies like video game systems have gained popularity at assisted living facilities.

As technology continues to evolve, assisted and independent living facilities should stay ahead of the curve whenever possible, and update their systems in order to provide the best care for their residents. As the elderly population increases dramatically, the need for technology becomes more crucial. The need for low cost options that helps monitor and assist seniors and provide peace of mind for families is vital. In order for seniors to live independently longer, there must be a process in place to help them care for themselves in the least-restrictive setting possible. The advancements that I’ve mentioned are just the beginning, and technology integration into senior care processes and aging services should remain a top priority.

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