Published November 23, 2020
Covid-19 took the world by storm this year, shaking up most of our institutions and forcing many of us to embrace new technology for work, for communication with loved ones, and even for our healthcare. This change is certainly true within the senior community since they are the highest risk group for complications when infected.
With seniors and senior communities having had to dramatically limit their exposure to other people and places, the move has helped them to stay healthy though simultaneously forced them into isolation to a degree beyond other age groups.
Pandemic optimized technology has helped bridge gaps to the outside world; it’s provided older adults with a way to stay connected to family and friends, receive remote medical care, and in some cases even receive a level of social support from caregiving services that can no longer come into their homes for in-person visits.
In short, technology has been a life saver this year.
The importance of real connection to others can’t be overstated. Seniors are facing higher rates of isolation and loneliness than prior generations for a variety of reasons, including changing family dynamics, demands of the modern workforce on caregivers, and transportation challenges to name a few. Since isolation and loneliness have been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment, it’s imperative that older adults have continuous access a social safety net and receive proper care to maintain quality of life as they age.
Further complicating the matter, being a family caregiver carries health risks too. Research shows higher rates of depression, weakened immune systems, and higher levels of stress for individual caregivers. Between family caregiver burnout and a lack of paid resources available to seniors, the United States is on the brink of a serious caregiver crisis, leaving older adults at even greater risk of becoming isolated.
It’s this challenge that clarifies the importance of further advancements and use of technology that’s needed to support tomorrow’s seniors.
With this in mind, one silver lining of the pandemic is the forced adoption of certain emerging technologies that are now playing a larger role in caregiving. There have been a variety of products and services made more easily accessible for seniors in an attempt to curb feelings of isolation and loneliness, and to improve overall health.
From telehealth to app-based grocery delivery services, a variety of options have been successful in helping seniors through this unprecedented time. These types of solutions need to continue playing an increasing role in the remote caregiving space in order to meet the growing needs of senior health.
The good news is that ecosystem is tremendously diverse and there are growing signs of not only adoption, but also real value in supporting quality of life and the health of seniors during 2020.
In addition to the positive reaction to the above tech that once seemed more applicable to younger generations, there are other tools that are having a huge impact on improving the lives of seniors during the pandemic. There are apps and services that can now provide seniors not only with groceries, but can offer meal delivery, transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, and let’s not forget about social media and video platforms that keep older adults connected to the wider world.
Senior Planet, a digital platform that was created to help seniors get more comfortable with technology, saw an increase in requests during the pandemic for Zoom tutorials, gaming programs, telemedicine portals, ride-sharing apps, fitness classes, and even online dating. This should come as no surprise given that the Pew Research Center has found that technology use among people over the age of 60 has more than doubled in the past decade.
There’s also a big opportunity in LifeStation’s corner of the industry when it comes to medical alert systems and peace of mind technology to stave off senior isolation. “Medical alert services are more technologically advanced than ever before”, said Laura Aiello, Director of Strategic Partnerships at LifeStation. “We have smaller, sleeker designs that are fully mobile, GPS-enabled location services for caregiver tracking, and services for checking in with seniors to provide peace of mind calls and a friendly voice.”
Research shows that 54% of seniors say that even a short conversation each day improves their overall wellbeing. In addition, internal LifeStation surveys indicate that over 90% of button activations to a centralized monitoring center are actually non-emergency, peace of mind conversations.
90% of button activations to a centralized monitoring center are actually non-emergency, peace of mind conversations.
Technology supporting remote caregiving is advancing quickly and has great potential to assist in meeting the challenges of an expanding senior population here in the U.S. Although it took a pandemic for some to see the significant benefits of incorporating technology into senior care, the question is how fast it will continue to advance once life returns to a more normal state.
In order to preserve both the physical and mental health of American seniors and their caregivers over the long-term, investment and continued adoption in remote technologies are a key ingredient to success.