The first of America’s 76 million baby boomers will turn 65 in 2011. This looming challenge to our elder care system will be compounded by another statistic: More baby boomers than previous generations are childless.
According to U.S. Census figures, 10 percent of women age 40 to 44 in 1976 had no children. This figure has doubled to 20 percent, and continues to rise.
So, baby boomers will be less likely to count on sons or daughters in their old age. Fewer will have younger siblings to care for them, as well; the American family has shrunk.
What can an aging, childless baby boomer do?
Many seniors who have no children develop bonds with younger friends or nieces and nephews. They may also have developed ties to church families or community organizations that can come to their assistance.
They also can call on professional caregiving providers such as Comfort Keepers®.
And baby boomers, who have grown up and gone through adulthood with an evolving array of electronic devices, have developed a fairly high level of comfort with and respect for technology.
Today, technology is ready for yet another phase of baby boomers’ lives, whether they have children or not—to help them age in place safely and confidently.
Comfort Keepers’ SafetyChoiceTM line of in-home care technology solutions helps seniors age safely and confidently at home, on its own or as a supplement to care provided by family, community-based volunteer programs or professional caregivers. These products are monitored around the clock by Comfort Keepers’ central monitoring station and are designed to help seniors maintain independence, prevent unnecessary hospitalizations and improve quality of life:
The SafetyChoice Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) enables seniors to quickly summon help in the event of a fall, illness or other emergency at home. A push of a button on a wrist band or pendant sends out an immediate call to the central monitoring station, reducing response times of emergency personnel.
For added safety and security, the SafetyChoice PERS system can be expanded to monitor up to 16 additional safety devices. These include motion detectors, pressure-sensitive floor mats, and door and window contacts that can provide home security or monitor people who wander, such as those with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related conditions. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors also can be added to the system.
The SafetyChoice Medication Management System helps seniors and their caregivers simplify the sometimes complicated process of organizing and dispensing prescriptions and over the counter medications—and reduces the risk of hospital and nursing home admissions that often result from improper use of medicine. The unit provides reminders with an automated voice, messages on a display screen and flashing lights, and has a locked compartment, allowing only one dose to be dispensed at a time.
The SafetyChoice GPS Personal Location Device provides peace of mind that a senior can be quickly located via state-of-the-art global tracking technology. When a senior becomes lost, he pushes a button on the device, sending out a signal that indicates his location to the Comfort Keepers monitoring station. In addition, family members or friends can pinpoint their loved one’s location in real time over the Internet or by calling the monitoring station.
New technologies are being developed and will likely play a growing role in the care of childless baby boomers—as well as other aging Americans.
Intel, for instance, is looking for opportunities to develop technology that better serves older adults while reducing health care costs. It is approaching this goal from three fronts:
A shift from treatment to prevention
A shift from expensive clinical settings to the home
A shift of some responsibility for care from formal providers to individuals and their family and friends.
These efforts affirm seniors’ desire to age in place and maintain greater independence, as well as the proven benefits of current technologies that complement in-home caregiving.
In partnership with the University of Washington, researchers at Intel Research Seattle are developing technology to track a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs). Another proposed system would deliver medication reminders by cell phone, TV or whatever device a senior would prefer. Other innovations in the making include wearable wireless sensors that would alert caregivers to a senior’s fall and sensors placed in a senior’s footwear to monitor gait for irregularity to prevent falls and costly hospital stays or nursing home placements.
Artificial intelligence research is being conducted to help persons with Alzheimer’s disease complete activities of daily living, reducing their dependence on caregivers.
More technologies also are becoming available to remotely monitor seniors’ chronic health conditions, such as hypertension. This capability will promote more efficient and effective use of the skills of professional caregivers whose ranks are hard pressed to keep up with the rapidly growing senior population.