Rethinking Healthcare

The coming boom of aging in place

The coming boom of aging in place

Posting in Technology

Any device that tells caregivers what a patient is up to, how their parts are working, can help them dose the hands-on care that is going to become more-and-more expensive over time.

Most people in my parents' time moved upon retirement, to some sunny clime like Florida or Arizona.

I saw many of them frolicking in south Florida a few years ago, when I traveled to Ft. Lauderdale for the funeral of my late friend Russell Shaw.

My mom was different. She stayed where she was. You can argue that being in Huntington Beach, Calif. had something to do with it. But she loved her little house, she loved her grandchildren, she loved her friends at Braille -- why leave?

I am proud to say she has had a wonderful later life. She's 87 now and her sense of humor remains intact. She's also cared for, thanks to my brother, who is raising his own family in the same house he grew up in.

She's an example to me, but most of us can't expect to be so fortunate in the son department. (I'm talking here of Carl, not of myself. He's in the center of the picture above.)

For most of us technology will have to play a role.

So it is gratifying that the geriatric care profession is now gearing up to do just that. A large team under Hyun Gu Kang of CalPoly Pomona has served up the first of what should be several reports on benefits and problems with remote monitoring technology.

Remote monitors are a technology I have been covering for many years. Any device that tells caregivers what a patient is up to, how their parts are working, can help them dose the hands-on care that is going to become more-and-more expensive over time.

Some folks can do well just knowing how their heart or blood sugar is doing. Data on exercise and sleep patterns helps people give better counsel by phone or (most likely) videophone. Tracking someone's day can even help keep an Alzheimer's patient in their home longer, by supporting hard-pressed family members.

The savings come from keeping people out of the growing number of senior care facilities being built around the country. These centers become necessary when technology can't do the job for you. The more we delay that, the longer you'll live like my mom does, which is the way she wants to.

This is what I want to do, too. Instead of saving for a condo in Florida I've fixed my house so it's the way I like it, all on one level, comfortable and warm. With my best gal by my side for as long as we both shall live.

The recommendations of the group are pretty generic:

  • Providers should control the technology and not be controlled by it.
  • Systems need to be easy to use, even when eyes can't see tiny buttons, ears can't hear complex instructions, or I've fallen and can't get up. Extensive testing on real people before marketing makes this work.
  • Policymakers need to get involved, and money has to be available to buy this stuff.
  • Regulations among professions involved in care need to work together.

Maybe mom can have a new career as a beta tester.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure