Silverware – Where Aging and Technology Meet

I recently attended the Silver Summit Conference at the Consumer Electronics Show, where the focus was on new technology that helps seniors and their family caregivers.   This collision of a rapidly aging society with a fast moving technology world is called “silverware” and these products create more protections and better peace of mind for keeping your loved one safe at home.

In fact, a new study from the National Alliance for Caregiving and UnitedHealthcare polled caregivers on the usage of these new technologies.  The report indicated three areas caregivers felt technology could be the most helpful in reducing caregiver stress, saving them time, making their loved one feel safer and making them feel more effective as a caregiver:

  • Personal Health Tracking Electronic Record for keeping medical history information on their loved one
  • Caregiving Coordination System for shared electronic information on their loved one’s health care
  • Medication Support System to remind seniors to take their medications or to refill a prescription

The only obstacle was a perception among caregivers that these technologies would be expensive.

Home Sweet (Smart) Home

These “aging in place” technology gadgets and services include sophisticated pill dispensers, remote monitoring systems,  touch screen products for video chat,  medication reminders and brain games for mental acuity, networks for smart homes,  and robotics that perform a variety of communication and assistance functions.

A 2008 report by AARP cited that 80 percent of Baby Boomers expect to stay at home as long as possible as they grow older.  Yet, of the 85 percent of senior Americans who currently live at home, 31 percent of them are living alone.  All of this spells more anxiety for family caregivers who want to support their loved one’s desires to stay at home but also want to keep them safe and prevent accidents or mishaps.

The 2010 report by Berg Insight reported that the home monitoring and safety industry is currently $9.88 billion and growing nine percent every year.  According to other studies, 79 percent of these purchases will be made by a family caregiver.

My Silver Summit Favorites

Following is a rundown of the products I really liked from the Silver Summit.  For a comprehensive rundown of the latest trends and products in this arena of aging technology, you can also check out Laurie Orlov’s blog at Aging in Place Technology Watch.

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)

While home safety monitoring is not a new concept (just think “Nanny-cams” for child surveillance), many seniors are rightfully resistant to being “watched” as if they have reverted back to being children who cannot be left alone.

What will help caregivers in having the discussion of these products with their older loved one is to change the conversation from “privacy invasion” to “protection” and “prevention” for them and “peace of mind” for both caregivers and their loved ones.

The latest trend in the PERS category is mobile PERS.  One called Lifecomm is a joint venture between Qualcomm, Hughes Telematics and American Medical Alert.  Offered in a wristwatch-style, a gadget for your belt or a lavalier, what makes this device unique is the ability for your loved one to leave their home having a sense of independence while caregivers have peace of mind by accessing their location and other information connecting through a cellular service.  Beyond the functionality of Lifecomm was the stylish design – clearly a departure from some similar devices that are bulky and many seniors feel are a “fashion don’t.”

Although not at the Silver Summit, for those caregivers caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, there is Comfort Zone – truly remarkable tech advancement in ensuring your loved one is safe from wandering too far from home while maintaining a sense of independence.

Medication Adherence

Statistics show that more than half of all Americans do not take their prescriptions correctly making this issue the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.  More than one million people are hospitalized and 125,000 people die from not adhering to their medication instructions and dosages.

While products like “Rex the talking pill bottle” have been on the market for a while, a sophisticated evolution is Tabsafe.  This product removes typical follow-up communication on “did you take your meds” with the caregiver’s ability to receive this information remotely and also change the dispensing of meds as instructed by a pharmacist or doctor.   The only drawback for many families is cost.  The device runs more than $1,000 with a monthly service fee.  Some Medicaid programs in certain states will reimburse and private insurers are evaluating reimbursement.  However, Tabsafe estimates this cost out weights the repeat hospitalizations needed from seniors not taking meds correctly.

Connectivity and Communication

While more and more seniors are getting online, 62 percent of those over 65 are still Internet-resistant.  For caregivers of these non-techy seniors, there are non-computer communication devices that bring peace of mind on important health care reminders but also give the older loved one the “social network” capability with other family and friends who have email, are on Twitter or Facebook.  All of this is done without the senior needing a computer, an Internet service provider or email.  Two products that work similarly are Celery (which uses a Lexmark printer technology) and Presto (which uses an HP printer technology).  The cost for Celery is around $90 for the device and $20 per month for the service and Presto is around $100 for the device and $12-$13 a month for the service.

One of the stand-outs at the show was Telikin which made its debut at the Silver Summit.  This touch screen device takes traditional computing to a sophisticated but simple-to-use level.  Whether it’s video chat, photo sharing, email communication or Internet cruising – the Telikin device will do everything your PC will – it’s just a lot easier for seniors, especially those who may have arthritis, to use a touch screen instead of a mouse.

Technology is going to help us live longer, in the way and in the place we desire.  And, while grandma’s silverware is typically passed down to younger generations, now “silverware” is being provided by family caregivers to keep their older loved ones safe and at home.


  1. It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people for this topic, but you seem like you know
    what you’re talking about! Thanks

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