The Geriatric Future Home CES 2016

The CES 2016 show was remarkable for all of aging folks that want to remain in our homes independently. The technology that is available currently can already be used to keep our elderly in their homes longer than usual.

We are all familiar with the alert systems available to our elderly frail. Great for those times when you are in trouble in your home and cannot make it to the phone to call for help, one just pushes a pendant button and the emergency network is alerted. Perfect for the aware patient that suffers a fall or falls ill in their home and cannot make it to their phone connection.
The cost of these services run about $15 to $30 dollars a month and at the very least provide a piece of mind for the parent and the child.

But currently available are technologies that interact in different sorts of ways. There are systems that are modified tablets that work SIMPLY so that a push of sensible buttons on a screen activate a communication stream (live video, voice, message, for example). While none of these are perfect, or perfect for every individual, they provide another type of communication vehicle between the elder and their network. These devices, which connect to smart devices (phones, tablets, etc.) can push information. A reminder to take your medication, cueing for daily activities, to-do lists, are just some of the features.

Of course we have technology that can be placed into the homes that include video cameras that can be viewed by pretty much anyone anywhere. These spy cameras can be life savers if placed appropriately and with permission by the elderly.

Smart cars add an entirely new dimension for the elderly. Based upon data in 2012, about 15 older adults are killed and over 500 are injured in crashes every day. In the automobile of the future, the concept of a license to drive will need to be redefined to mean a license to sit in a car and tell it where you want to travel. The level of independence gained for our elderly will be game changing. Many elderly move into assisted living residences just because they are unable to drive any longer.

Smart home technology will create a new environment for the elder. Using devices like the Amazon Echo® that connect other smart features in the home (television, lights, refrigerator, laundry, computer, stereo, oven) will allow with simple commands control of the most vital features in the home. The future will bring voice controlled features to assist the elder out of bed (raise head, lower feet, swing to right, …) if they have arthritis; help cook simple foods (command microwave to cook oatmeal, please; of course, coffee black two sugars). The current technology allows news to be read, the weather report and books to be read out loud.

The medical home will continue to advance from a point where we are now where vitals can be recorded seamlessly onto smart phones and pads. The next step is to aggregate medical information into a format that can have an impact on the health of the elder that has meaning. We do not need pages of blood pressures and blood glucose readings: we need a program that can interpret patterns and abnormalities, and intervene through a connected home to help the elder with preventing a major event such as hypoglycemia.

A few days at the CES 2016 and its evident that none of us should stop learning as much as we can about our technology around us. Play with as many gadgets as you can get your hands on now because it may save your life later. At the very least, it will keep you in your home a longer.

Scott Matthew Bolhack, MD, MBA, CMD, CWS, FACP, FAAP
CEO, TLC HealthCare Consulting Group, Inc
Tucson, Arizona