If you’ve ever watched Star Trek episodes, you have seen Dr. McCoy use a handy-dandy tricorder to assess the health of the crew instantaneously. Other science fiction books and films have imagined all kinds of far-fetched devices and tools to make people’s lives better. What you may not realize is that some of the most cutting edge advancements are geared towards making aging an easier process.
“Technology over the last several years has improved both the length of our lives, as well as the quality,” says Dr. Brett A. Oliver, chief medical information officer for Baptist Health. “There has been a huge move toward ‘aging in place’ both for the practical reason that most people would rather be at home, as well as the fact that we do not have enough assisted living facilities, nursing homes, etc. to accommodate the baby boomer generation that is upon us. There are entire companies pivoting their business approach to be a direct-to-consumer provider of technology to help people thrive and age on their own terms while assisting families and caregivers.”
What has been most amazing, perhaps, is older adult’s embrace of technology, which is due, in part, to COVID. “The rate of adoption and cultural acceptance that was brought on by the pandemic cannot be understated. The belief that people over age 65 do not like technology is just not true. With the proper help, once set up, [they] become some of our higher utilizers due to the convenience and life circumstances they find themselves in,” Dr. Oliver says.
The guide below showcases just a handful of the amazing tools and services that are helping aging adults stay connected, manage health issues before they become major problems, and live at home for as long as possible.
Handheld Health Measurements
While the MouthLab isn’t exactly a tricorder, it is pretty darn close. Made by Aidar Health, the device is a handheld assessment tool that measures several health markers, including oxygen saturation levels, pulse rate, heart rate, lung function, and blood pressure, and sends the data to the patient’s doctors. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Sathya Elumalai, came up with the idea after being a caregiver for his own mother who had several chronic conditions.
The hand unit of the device is about the size of a cell phone, but the most important component is the mouthpiece in which a patient breathes in and out for several seconds. There are special sensors in the mouthpiece that can pick up all kinds of information about the patient’s overall health. aidar.com
The FDA has given “Breakthrough Device Designation” to Sana Device, a mask and headphone that uses light and sound to help individuals get better sleep. The audiovisual stimulation helps balance the sides of the brain in about 15 minutes and provides a form of meditative relaxation that often sends people into a deep and refreshing sleep. The designer of the device, Richard Hanbury, created it following a traumatic car accident that left him with chronic nerve pain. The device monitors heart rate to ensure that users get to a relaxed state. sana.io
Detection In the Loo
Toi Labs TrueLoo is a toilet seat that collects data when someone uses the toilet, and can detect a change in bathroom habits that may indicate a problem, such as a new urinary tract infection (UTI) or dehydration. It looks and feels just like a regular toilet seat but it has sensors that collect information and can send it to caregivers. This device can be especially useful for dementia patients who may not have the ability to let caregivers know they are experiencing discomfort during urination and for whom a UTI can be especially problematic because it can cause severe confusion. toilabs.com/trueloo
Striding Forward with Parkinson’s
Over 60,000 people each year are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive illness that impacts the nervous system. A symptom that can accompany the diagnosis is freezing of gait, whereby an individual intends to walk but cannot make forward progress. Aside from making mobility difficult, freezing of gait can also lead to falls and injuries.
NexStride is a device that attaches to walkers or canes and helps reestablish communication between the brain and the legs through the use of audio and visual cues. The device includes a metronome and laser light that help “prod” the brain into regaining awareness of where the body is in space. NexStride may prove especially helpful to individuals who are already taking prescribed Parkinson’s medications but are still having freezing of gait episodes. getnexstride.com
Less Sores Cushion
A big concern for individuals who are largely confined to their beds has long been the development of bedsores. Also called pressure injuries, these ulcers can lead to some very serious health complications and take a long time to heal, prompting caregivers to work hard to ensure they don’t develop in the first place. A startup company called Wave Therapeutics has developed a special cushion that features a pump to keep blood circulating. The movement of the cushion segments keeps the body’s tissue from lying in one area too long. While the cushion can be used to reduce the incidence of bedsores, it can also be useful for avoiding deep-vein thrombosis and blood clots. wavetherapeuticsinc.com
Nesterly is a service that strives to help individuals who need affordable places to live connect with older adults who may be looking for companionship or have extra space in their home and could benefit from some extra income by renting out a room. Nesterly completes the background checks on potential renters and also verifies references and proof of employment; it also handles the leasing documents, collects rent, and manages any issues that may arise. The company ensures that renters and hosts are compatible in ways that people need to be in order to live companionably together. An optional part of the program is that renters can do chores, such as cooking or cleaning, in exchange for reduced rent. nesterly.com
The need for small, affordable homes is immense, but Bequall is trying to help manage this crisis with its BePod, a 385-square-foot studio apartment that comes fully furnished and is built to both state and local building codes. For families that need or want their older loved one nearby, this could be a game changer. It could also come in handy for an older adult living in their own home who would like a caregiver to be close, lessening transportation costs and logistic obstacles. The energy-efficient BePod structures are installed on permanent foundations and have access to all utilities. bequall.com
By Carrie Vittitoe
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