What does your stereotypical senior living community look like? Do you imagine quiet, feeble elders sitting in rocking chairs, taking long naps, and occasionally playing cards? Senior living isn’t what it used to be. Seniors lead longer and more adventurous lives than ever before. And while there's nothing wrong with rocking chairs, today’s seniors are more likely to be found finding new love, forming new hobbies, picking up degrees, and even going skydiving. Senior living communities are evolving to meet the changing needs of their residents. Technological innovations play a major role in this evolution. The right technology helps seniors remain independent longer, even when they have complex medical needs.
Here are six innovations that have transformed life in today’s senior living communities.
Tablets are like a one-stop shop for seniors who crave entertainment and information. Whether it’s watching a rerun of a favorite show, enjoying a cutting-edge documentary, or scrolling through social media, tablets connect seniors to the world outside of the senior living bubble. They also provide an easy way to access free and affordable music via apps such as Amazon and YouTube. Music can improve seniors’ physical and mental health, not to mention their quality of life. One study found that music helps people with dementia recall memories and emotions.
We are living in the future we were once promised. We can connect with, and even see, anyone we love with the push of a button. Video chat apps such as Skype and Google Voice make it easier for seniors to connect across distance. They can even help seniors participate in family life when life’s obstacles—mobility problems, financial barriers, or distance—make it impossible to do so in person.
Video games can improve coordination, memory, spatial reasoning, and a host of other skills. Some games, such as Wii Fit, encourage seniors to get moving, transforming exercise from drudgery into something decidedly more fun. Almost every senior can find at least one video game they love, so many senior living communities stock game consoles and personal devices that seniors can borrow or use in group settings.
Automatic Pill Dispensers
Medication errors such as taking too many pills, taking the wrong pills, or missing doses are common. Missing medications can undermine senior health—and taking the wrong drugs can be life-threatening. Automatic pill dispensers greatly reduce these risks. They remind seniors when to take medication and make it easier for caregivers to track medication over time. For some seniors, this can mean greater independence and less reliance on third parties to dispense drugs.
Digital Personal Assistants
Digital personal assistants such as Amazon Echo make everyday life a bit more convenient. For seniors with cognitive or memory impairments, however, they are a true revolution. Seniors can ask questions, get helpful reminders, and access whatever information they want—without frustrating caregivers or feeling embarrassed by their queries.
GPS offers more than an antidote to wrong turns and frustrating drives. For seniors with dementia, it can be life-saving. Wearable GPS units make it easier to track seniors who wander or get easily lost. This eases the minds of anxious caregivers, and may also afford a senior with severe dementia more freedom than they might otherwise have.
Technology isn’t just the thing that keeps us glued to our phones at family dinners. The right technology is transforming, and even saving, seniors’ lives. So when you evaluate senior living communities, ask what technologies they use to make life better for their residents. Consider also the role that technology can play in improving the well-being of a senior you love who still lives at home. The right device could even help them live at home longer.