Technology is more than simply making smaller mobile phones or increasing internet accessibility. Innovative companies have already provided insights as to where technology will likely take us within the next decade or so. For seniors, there are a variety of thrilling opportunities that we will (or already can) take advantage of, and it all starts with the most important item of all: our health.
Easier Access to Medical Help
It has only been within the past couple of years in which individuals could easily access professional medial personnel through their smartphone. Today anyone of any age can receive medical advice for non-life threatening health issues by initiating a video call with a doctor. While this technology is still in its early stages, Skyping with a doctor is only expected to increase in popularity and necessity as time goes on.
One obvious challenge which doctors who provide Internet-based medical advice to patients face is that they do not have access to their medical records. With this growing demand for video calls with doctors, it is expected that soon anyone’s medical records will be available online.
What also may go hand in hand with this is remote patient monitoring. Many apps already allow for patients to monitor their weight, their glucose levels, document their symptoms and then send these results to their doctors. If this is tied in with online medical records, doctors who assist patients from afar will have the information they need to know to provide the best medical advice and treatment possible.
Robots as Caregivers
Japanese engineer Toshiharu Mukai has developed a “Robot-Teddy Bear”, a warm and fuzzy assistant who is able to help older or disabled individuals sit, stand, and move into a wheelchair. This is one invention that would be warmly welcomed by health care workers who perform lifting tasks such as these 40 times a work day, if not more.
The primary reason why an individual or their family member may choose to place someone into an assisted living facility is because they fear that they are no longer able to perform tasks safely which are necessary for having a happy and healthy life. In less than ten years it is expected that technologies will exist which will help seniors maintain their independence for as long as possible.
Driving and Navigation: It’s no secret that Google is working hard at developing the world’s first “self-driving” vehicle. So far these prototypes are able to not only drive and park, but they can help those who choose to drive easily navigate hazardous road conditions or even recognize an inattentive driver (at which point the car takes over all driving). “Talking” street signs through a Bluetooth device are also expected to be introduced so those who have difficulties seeing at night (an issue which often plagues those in their golden years) can hear street signs and continue to drive comfortable after the sun has set.
Advanced Safety Monitoring: Forget nanny-cams. It is expected that in a few short years sophisticated monitoring systems will be available which allow friends and loved ones of older or disabled individuals to be informed of a change in behaviour, and if something should be done. Some of these monitors may advise you of when and where a loved one has fallen and if they have gotten up. Other systems will be able tell you if or when an older loved one has taken his or her medication, or if they haven’t gotten out of bed.
“Aging” Homes: There are already stair lifts, walk-in tubs and waist-high power outlets being added to homes of seniors. But the 21st century senior home will go beyond these accommodations. Homes will soon be able to be outfitted with sensors that will inform third parties if a stove burner has been left on after a pot has been removed, or if a garage door has been left open. Many will tell you if the front door is unlocked. It is expected that these tools will become so sophisticated that your appliances will even be able to communicate with one another to relay messages (i.e. your refrigerator will be able to tell your mother’s television that it’s door has been left open. The television will be able to relay that information to your mother the moment she turns it on.).
Lights Are Everywhere
Nowadays having a flashlight attached to a set of keys or included with a mobile phone is commonplace. Some of the trendiest bags and purses available already offer lights on the inside. We should continue to expect to see lighting become available in some of the least expected for most clever of places, such as on restaurant menus or have street signs light up at night.