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4 Min. Read

Assistive Technology Products for Older People

4 Min. Read
A woman using a smart thermostat in her home

During the pandemic, technology use by seniors increased across the board. But eagerness to try new technology doesn’t necessarily mean the technology is being developed with older users in mind. Though many older people are willing to try new technology to make their lives easier, finding the right assistive technology can be challenging.

Before spending hundreds of dollars on the latest gadget or device, Tom Kamber, executive director of  Older Adults Technology Services from AARP, recommends you understand what you’re trying to achieve in adopting the technology. Knowing your goals and asking questions at the outset of the process ultimately helps to find something that is the best fit, he says.  

Kamber, along with other aging and tech experts, provided assistive technology solutions to help older people achieve their goals. Here, we take a look at different technologies and how they might fit into an aging person’s life.

Connecting With Family and Friends  

Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging and Health Technology Watch, believes the right assistive technology can be instrumental in increasing social interactions and cutting down on the isolation that so often plagues older people who live alone. But for many older people, the same tech they hope will increase connections causes frustration instead with small buttons, tiny screens, and non-user-friendly interfaces.

In her recent report, Technology for Aging January 2022 Market Overview, Orlov recommends products by Lively, a cell phone and medical alert company targeted to the tech needs of seniors. Lively has a full line of accessible, connected devices, from basic cell phones to smartphones that feature easy-to-use interfaces and larger buttons than standard phones.  

Jennifer Clancy, founder of ALLE Learning, a platform that provides online classes for seniors, says that many of the seniors she works with love their Amazon Alexa as a hands-free way to connect with the Internet and the world. Some look to it as a way of staying connected. One of her clients even enjoys being greeted by Alexa with a simple “Good Morning, Ruth. How are you?”

Stay Safe at Home  

Thanks to technological advances, home security systems have become easier to install and less expensive than ever. However, Heather Brin, aging in place specialist and owner of Aging in Place Architecture, wants older adults to know that many safety tech devices are not perfect. Particularly when it comes to staying safe in the home, it’s up to the owner to check frequently to make sure these devices are working properly to ensure they are on and functioning.  That caveat aside, she recommends the following devices that offer different features and connection methods.

  • Ring indoor camera. This HD Security camera features two-way talking and works with Alexa. The Ring doorbell allows you to see who is at your door and allows friends and family to monitor who is coming and going from your home remotely.
  • Blurams 2K security camera alerts your phone if an abnormal sound, motion, or human movement is detected in the home. One of the advantages is the crisp, clear picture quality and the ability to have a continuous recording so that, if necessary, you can revisit key footage. Another bonus is you can share the camera views with unlimited family members.  
  • Wyze camera with color night vision is equipped with Alexa and Google assistant. This camera also works indoors and outdoors and offers a full-color view of any questionable activity at night. The camera is compact and can detect the difference between normal motion and human movements.  

Track Wellness and Exercise  

Wearable devices that can track various metrics offer a simple and easy method for older people to ensure they get in enough steps and even sleep well enough. Different devices provide different feature selections, but the following two are popular choices:

  • Fitbit Versa 2 health and fitness smartwatch tracks steps, calories burned, heart rate during activities, and sleep quality. Brin recommends this device specifically for Alexa users because it can sync to Alexa. 
  • The Apple Smart Watch also tracks health metrics like sleep, oxygen levels, and steps. It also has a built-in automatic fall detection feature that triggers an alert to ask you if you need assistance.  

Automatic pill dispensers like e-pill, or Medminder, are also helpful for tracking day-to-day medical needs.  

Medical Assistance 

Commonly known as personal emergency response systems, these wearable devices will send for help even if you cannot communicate due to a fall or some other emergency.  Experts say when shopping for these devices 24-hour connection to a live response center is essential to prevent delays in receiving help.

In her report, Orlov cites the following medical alert devices as good options with a response center connection.  

  • Bell Pal is a wearable watch and has a distinct advantage, seven months of continuous battery life even though you may wear the device all the time. Also, with extensive testing, it has developed a fall algorithm that prevents false alarms.  
  • Freedom Guardian also doubles as a wristwatch and has GPS tracking, mobile texting, and a one-push button that you can use in case of an emergency.  

No matter what assistive technology you decide to invest in, it is important to start your “technology journey with a brand-new device that is loaded with the most recent software and apps,” says Kamber. He adds that the “purpose of incorporating technology into your life is not to add stress . . . but rather to help [you] thrive on the platforms that will best connect [you] now with loved ones and resources.”