Technology has changed everyone’s lives and continues to do so every day. In many ways, seniors have some of the greatest needs of anyone in our society and, as such, may have the most potential to be helped by technological innovations in the years to come.
But it’s complicated. Most tech startups aren’t led by people who understand the needs of seniors, which can result in products that seem like they’ll be great for solving a problem common to seniors that never get used because they’re not truly designed with seniors in mind.
Further complicating matters, seniors can sometimes be slow to adopt the technologies available that could be useful to them, especially if they’re at all complicated to figure out.
The potential is there for technology to make seniors lives easier in a myriad of ways. Some products have already started to make their mark, while others on the horizon could make a big difference in years to come. It’s hard to predict which technologies will be the most significant for seniors, but we have a few ideas about which upcoming technologies for seniors could play a role in how people age in the near future.
The Senior Wearables Market
Wearables made for seniors specifically are already a notable portion of the wearables market. Lively’s safety watch and Wisewear’s stylish bracelets are already available for seniors to purchase and use, and UnaliWear’s Kanega Watch will be available for sale shortly.
These wearables already provide seniors with some added safety, easy reminders, and some activity tracking similar to what popular wearable devices like the FitBit provide. Future wearables could take the technology further to provide features that track the wearer’s blood pressure, monitor vital signs, or help seniors with vision loss navigate their way through the world.
Companies are clearly interested in pursuing the senior market with new wearable products; in years to come those products could become ever more sophisticated at tracking the health concerns most important to keeping seniors safe.
Voice Activated Smart Homes
Many people are little by little making investments to make their homes smarter. While for some consumers voice-activated smart devices offer convenience and a cool factor, for seniors with mobility issues they can increase the safety of aging in place.
Seniors can talk to a device like Amazon Echo to tell it to turn lights on and off, thermostats up and down, and the sprinklers on and off. For seniors who have difficulty walking or are worried about the risks of a fall, saving all those little trips around the house can make a big difference.
As voice-activated smart devices continue to take off, more and more of our around-the-house tasks will begin to be controlled this way – anything from turning the oven on to closing the blinds will all be possible while sitting in one place.
Probably one of the most exciting (and thus most covered in the media) technological developments that will improve seniors’ lives is the advent of self-driving cars. With influential companies like Google and Tesla making big investments into getting the technology for driverless cars off the ground, within a few years, seniors will have little reason to dread the inevitable conversation about when it’s time to stop driving.
While today, seniors do have other options for getting around when they’re no longer able to drive, the process will be that much easier when most of the country has left behind driving and handed the reins over to the cars themselves.
Robot Health Care
Some memory care facilities are already using robot pets as a tool for helping residents with dementia to relax when they’re dealing with bouts of anxiety. These robots can provide some of the needs dementia patients have that caregivers have a hard time providing themselves – and can do so without the physical and emotional limitations humans have.
Researchers are now working on robot caregivers who can provide even more of the care most seniors can expect to need as they age. These robot caregivers probably won’t replace human caregivers entirely, but they can lighten the heavy load caregivers face now considerably.
Technology That Brings People Together
One of the biggest dangers facing many seniors is loneliness. Technology can provide some help with that as well.
Stitch is currently the main social media network targeting seniors specifically. The platform’s stated goal is to help seniors “find companions,” with an emphasis on finding other seniors with similar interests. Connecting with other seniors online is a good way to start new friendships as old ones start to fade or loved ones pass away.
The Gold Girls Network helps match seniors with other seniors who need roommates, so they don’t have to age in place alone.
And virtual senior centers are popping up to provide one more online space for seniors to make connections with other seniors.
It’s easy as loved ones pass and getting places becomes more difficult for seniors to find themselves staying home alone more and more. Technology provides multiple solutions to help seniors avoid that fate and stay social as they age and the future is likely to bring even more solutions for connecting seniors with other people.
Technology for Senior Safety
The market for tech products that exist specifically to make seniors safer is already large. Seniors and their loved ones already have a selection of home monitoring devices, medical alert systems, and GPS monitoring devices.
All of these can help families ensure senior loved ones get medical help quickly any time they need it, and that they can find their way home (or be found by loved ones) if they ever get lost.
In addition, companies provide technology like Senior Growth that enables home health caregivers to better track a senior’s health and behavior so they can quickly identify potential risks. Companies that provide medical diagnostic devices for things like monitoring heart health or measuring oxygen can start making versions of their devices that patients can use at home to catch problems sooner as the technology becomes more affordable.
All of that, combined with some of the other technologies mentioned here, paints a picture of a future in which seniors are healthier and safer. Technology can’t make injuries and safety concerns go away entirely, but it can (and already has) help to reduce them.
Some of these technological innovations are already available to some, others will be coming in months, and some won’t be seen for a number of years, if at all. We can’t know what the future will look like, but all signs point toward new technologies making it easier, safer, and better for seniors, as long as tech companies can find the sweet spot between what seniors need and what they’re comfortable using.