More than nine in 10 Canadian seniors are living at home, and technology is helping them stay there. Seniors can use environmental control systems to turn on lights, operate televisions, and open doors, all without getting out of their chairs. Wearable health devices make it easier for seniors and their caregivers to monitor health issues. Home sensors let family caregivers monitor seniors from a distance.
Today’s technology has already made caring for seniors easier, and technology is only getting better. There are many new technologies in development that can create even more independence for seniors. If you’re caring for seniors, here are some of the exciting technologies to watch out for.
Some domestic robots are already on the market. Vacuum cleaning robots have been available for over a decade. Newer models are even able to sweep and mop floors. If your parents are having trouble keeping their floors clean, these types of robots can help a lot. Self-cleaning litter boxes and automatic pet food dispensers are another example of specialized domestic robots.
However, more exciting domestic robots are in development that can make caring for seniors easier. At Hertfordshire University in the United Kingdom, a robotics professor created two prototype care robots. These robots, called Care-O-Bots, have been programmed to do things like fetch and carry items. They can also monitor seniors for signs of unusual activity, like not coming out of the bathroom.
Multi-purpose care robots are harder to develop because they have to handle many different functions. They’re more complicated than vacuum cleaning robots or pet foot dispensers, so it could be another 20 years or so before they’re widely available. Still, this is a very exciting technological advancement that will help seniors remain independent at home.
Intelligent Mobility Devices
Today’s mobility devices, like walkers and wheelchairs, help seniors get around. But, they aren’t very high-tech, and they don’t work for everyone. Seniors need to be able to see well enough to navigate. Seniors with Parkinson’s disease or other chronic conditions may have difficulty operating their wheelchairs.
Intelligent mobility devices seek to change that. There are multiple types of these devices currently in development. One type is a high-tech walker. Users can push a button to tell the walker where they want to go, and the walker will help them get there. If the walker detects an obstacle in the user’s path, it vibrates to suggest a change of course.
Autonomous wheelchairs are another exciting mobility device in development. These are being developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The wheelchairs are able to determine paths on their own and navigate around obstacles. Right now, they only work indoors, but researchers are working to extend the technology so the wheelchairs can be used outdoors.
Today’s seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely. Most seniors recognize that they have limitations, and adjust their driving habits accordingly. For example, they may stop driving at night, or may avoid driving in bad weather. Or, they may stay away from busy roads or highways. While these changes help seniors stay safe, they can also trap seniors in their homes. When you can’t drive as often, it’s harder to see friends and family, take part in hobbies, or even go to your doctor’s appointments.
Self-driving cars will make a big difference in seniors’ lives. Instead of being trapped indoors, or needing to rely on others for rides, they can get around on their own. Seniors will be able to remain independent, and their caregivers won’t need to provide as much support.
This technology isn’t as far off as you might think. Many automakers are developing and testing cars with self-driving capabilities. The end goal is to create cars that can drive with zero input from human drivers. Many automakers expect to have fully autonomous cars on the road in the early 2020’s.