The technologies helping us as we age

20 August 2018

Technology is finally catering to people of all ages; that which is designed to facilitate life as we age is doing so with marked success.

COO of Howz Louise Rogerson explains how various innovative solutions are changing the way that we approach retirement by offering us opportunities to stay social, active, and well whilst providing peace of mind and empowerment in a range of different ways.  

Over the past few years, a range of new technologies have emerged which are designed to empower older people to ensure that their retirement and beyond is as healthy and stress-free as possible.

Keep checks on yourself

As we get older, it’s worth keeping track of our cognitive health in order to catch and deal with any changes before they become too significant, and also to reassure anxious family members that we’re doing just fine (or alerting them if we’re not).

There are a range of different devices that are helping older people to demonstrate to family members that they are pottering along as usual. Wearable fitness trackers, for example, can let the user know whether their heart rate is normal, or will let them know whether they spend enough time up and walking around.

Or we can take advantage of the human tendency to create routines wherever we are. One of the big shocks once we retire, is when we find ourselves without the regular rituals of the working week. However, as we spend more time at home, we tend to settle into new routines anyway - and that’s something we can capitalise on in order to enjoy a deeper understanding about our own health.

Howz is a smart home device that uses motion sensors and smart sockets to build up an understanding of what the typical routine in a house looks like, and uses this to inform analysis over time. Essentially, it will recognise when you haven’t had your morning cup of tea, or if you’re walking around the house less than you might have been previously. This sort of information is really useful to the user, because the device will let you know whether changes in the routine are indicative of a changing health condition such as oncoming frailty.  It is so easy to miss these changes happening as they occur slowly over time and we simply adapt as we go along until it is too late.

Friends and family are also able to access the data collected by these devices if it is shared, so that they can check whether someone has had the kettle on or been up and about. In this sense, the device is a great for way for the user to maintain their own independence; rather than have to constantly report that they are fine to concerned family members, they can demonstrate the consistency of their routine through the data on the app. 

Deal with encroaching health conditions

As we near and pass retirement age, there are various health conditions that we become increasingly likely to develop. Technologies are emerging that are designed to limit the impact of some of these conditions, or at least slow down the development of their symptoms.

One example is the Tovertafel, a series of interactive light games projected on to a table that is proven to slow down the cognitive decline associated with mid- to late-stage dementia. The games are safe, easy to play and brightly coloured in order to stimulate the user cognitively, physically and emotionally. It requires very little supervision and allows people with dementia a chance to interact again with others, leading to an improved quality of life.

On its way and due to be released in late 2018 or early 2019 is the GyroGlove, a device that steadies the hand from tremors so that the wearer can eat, drink and write with ease. It works with gyroscopes within the glove that counteracts hand tremors, in order to allow the wearer to handle everyday tasks with more dexterity. You can sign up to their email list to hear more about the Gyroglove as and when it is released. 

If you’re struggling with your hearing, you might want to look into ReSound, a hearing aid company that allows users to discreetly control their hearing aids using their Android or iPhone, iPad or Apple watch.

10 ways to protect hearing

Smart homes to aid us as we get older

One of the main areas where the focus has shifted towards the development of technology specifically for older people is smart home technology. New technologies are emerging that are designed to make home life hassle-free and, more importantly, to empower the inhabitant to maintain their independence.

For those dealing with long term conditions or reduced mobility, smart interactive homes are offering a fantastic opportunity to stay independent for longer.  Adjusting heating from your armchair, motion sensors connected to lights, and voice-controlled devices may currently be seen as a luxury, but these may well be key to enabling someone to live independently. 

Simple tasks which may have required human assistance previously may now be replaced by technology solutions such as the robot vacuum cleaner, Roomba. 

There are also an increasing number of ways to monitor our homes; one example is LeakBot, a smart water leak alarm for the home which uses patented thermal technology to detect hidden water leaks before they can cause damage. It only takes a couple of minutes to clip to the mains water supply pipe beneath the kitchen sink, and you don’t need any tools or plumbing know-how. Once fitted, LeakBot’s advanced algorithms begin to recognise routine water-usage activities in your home, like running a bath, filling the kettle or putting on the dishwasher. Then, if LeakBot detects any continuous unusual water flow in your pipes, it alerts you via your smartphone.

Embracing technology can be a challenge so take the time to explore the different options available – voice, tablets, laptops and see which one works for you.  Getting familiar now will make it much easier later on when it may become a necessity, so set some time aside at the earliest opportunity.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.