Emmy Pei works for a technology provider in the medical  industry called Direct Alert (www.directalert.ca).  She was kind enough to share an article with us and we are pleased to include it on our blog. 

Elderly Care with Technology

There exists a looming problem in the healthcare system for our baby boomer population, and that is the shortage of people available to provide hands-on care for the elderly and the aging. Enter…the robots. Or to be more specific, a robot named Pearl.

Developed by a research team at Carnegie Mellon University, Pearl is undergoing a trial run in a Pittsburgh nursing home, guiding residents around the building, helping them get from their rooms to the dining hall, or from the library to their physical therapy session. Pearl is also able to give verbal alerts to remind residents to eat or to take their medications.

Advancements in assistive technology will not only improve the care for elderly people in institutions like nursing homes and hospitals, but they will also help to keep them out of said institutions. Fall detectors, pressure mats, door monitors, and bed alerts and medical alerts all serve to improve home safety, increasing people’s ability to live in the comfort of their homes for much longer.

There are also several new options to address problems such as failing to take medications on time or remembering to take them at all. Smartmeds offers a wireless service that delivers notifications to take medications via cell phone calls. The On-Time-Rx software for Palm pilots provides a similar service, sounding an alarm and displaying a set of instructions at the appropriate time. More 21st century style options include wristwatches with preset alarms as medication reminders, or automatic dispensers which sound an alarm and dispense the pills at the right times. Also featured is the medical alert bracelets which carry the direct alert receiver. These two pieces can be worn with comfort and confidence.

One obstacle to overcome is the intimidation factor. Something as simple as cell phone buttons being too small, or wheel-mouse devices that are too sensitive can prevent some folk from adopting new technologies. Recognizing this potential pitfall, Jeffrey Pepper founded ElderVision in 1999, a company devoted to helping technophobic seniors get online. The Touchtone system replaces the mouse and keyboard with voice and touch-sensitive activation, making computers more accessible to a generation who grew up without them. To send an e-mail, for example, you can simply touch an onscreen photo of the intended recipient, instead of having to worry about typing it out.

Technological developments like these allow older generations to stay more connected, while enhancing their independence. With their health and well being in the hands of people who care and with the proper technological tools, senior citizens can live more relaxed and comfortable lives. And while the age of robots still remains on the horizon, residents of the Pittsburgh nursing home told the Carnegie Mellon team that Pearl is fine, as long as it’s not seen as a replacement for human contact
 

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