Connectivity is Key to Aging in Place

Last week’s blog discussed some of the “concierge” type services available to help Baby Boomers age in place. But technological advancements aren’t limited only to ways to connect seniors with health care services. Tech comes in all shapes and sizes, and has an impact on how successfully someone can age in place. This week, I’ll look at some of the areas benefiting from digital progress, and how they’re helping seniors stay home and stay healthy. 

‘Alexa, Call for Help’

Several digital-based options — with humans at the other end of the connection — to help Baby Boomers at home are now available. They combine the simple call button technology of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” fame with the latest tech innovations to provide ways to connect family and friends with the client. While most do not provide assistance in finding health care providers, they do assist with a variety of other needs essential for successful aging in place. Not surprisingly, one option has been developed by Amazon: Alexa Together.

Alexa Together is a remote caregiving service provided through Amazon Echo devices. It requires that the older adult and their main supporting family member each have an Amazon Echo Device, although the supporting family member can use the Alexa app installed on a mobile device. The monthly subscription is $19.99/month ($199/year) plus tax after a 30-day free trial. Amazon recommends that the senior citizen have an echo show device in each room they frequent to ensure that they can always be connected to Alexa Together if they choose to be. Echo Show models range in price from $35 to $170. Non-video echo devices for family members range in price from $20 to $60, with the high end Echo Studio coming in at $199.

Big Sister is Watching

Photo from Amazon website.

With the Alexa Together plan, users can set up daily alerts, set reminders, manage shopping lists, link music services, and other typical digital assistance services. The main support person also can set up reminders that are sent to the senior. What separates the service from regular Alexa or Siri are three additional benefits: a 24/7 urgent response feature that automatically calls a trained agent who can help the client get assistance; activity feed technology, where loved ones can see snapshots of the senior’s Echo device interactions; and a “Circle of Support” feature, which allows the addition of up to 10 other family members and friends to help with support. Alexa Together also links to compatible fall detection devices. If a fall is detected, Alexa will ask the person if they need help, then connect to the urgent response line and alert the person’s emergency contacts.

Three years ago, I would have said that all of these staying-in-touch devices were creepy, or just plain intrusive. What a difference a pandemic makes … we were desperate to know how our family and friends were doing. Zoom became a household word as we all embraced the joy of seeing one another — even on Hollywood Squares.

Taking It One Step Farther

Photo from ElliQ website.

Another area helping to ease struggles encountered while aging in place is artificial intelligence (AI). Don’t worry — we’re not talking about Hal, the AI computer from 2001 A Space Odyssey, trapping humans in space. iRobot helped popularize AI cleaning, but today’s AI devices can do so much more. They can help you remember medications and appointments, assess general health, provide conversation and news, and connect friends and family members via video calls. One such product is ElliQ, created by Innovative Robotics as “an empathetic care companion that empowers happy, healthy, independent aging at home.” ElliQ is highly complex and sounds like a robot when it talks. It interacts with users and rather resembles a heavyset desk lamp, whose head pivots and turns to engage with the client. ElliQ learns a user’s personal interests and preferences over time, allowing it to “converse” with the person.

ElliQ also has many of the same features that Alexa and Siri have — news, interesting facts, sports updates, music, reminders, video calls, timers, and more. It notifies family and friends on health matters. Users can make video calls and voice text message. They can even order items — everything from ordering flowers for someone to booking transportation — through ElliQ (for a small service fee per transaction). Innovative Robotics notes that the difference between Alexa or Siri and ElliQ is that ElliQ is built to be proactive, rather than reactive, to the client’s needs. It costs $39.99/month ($29.99/month if paid annually) with a one-time set-up and enrollment fee of $249.99. 

ElliQ is specifically designed for adults ages 65 and older that are living alone, or spend most of their day alone. Since it is a relatively new release, ElliQ only speaks English and currently is available in the United States. It needs power and WiFi in order to operate. The ElliQ website has information about pilot program successes in various older adult communities.

ElliQ fits somewhere between a nosy roommate and doting mother: you are glad to have them around sometimes, but they do become annoying with their continuous flow of questions.

Smart Phones and Smart Watches: Move Over

Just when I thought I was able to use at least half of the features on my mobile devices, I ran into these other tools that promise to bring order to your life. Technology has come a long way from the days of computers the size of football fields. And applications of that technology will continue to evolve and improve. Some 10,000 people turn 65 every day, and the U.S. Census Bureau says that has been a trend since 2010. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be at least 65. And most of us want to age in place. Smart use of technology will play an important role in helping us thrive in our Third Chapter Lives.

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age-in-place.

1 Comments

  1. Kathy on November 7, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    You don’t know you need these “gadgets” until you’ve reached an age where you can’t learn how to use them. We need to be familiar with the new tech while we’re still independent so we’re comfortable using them.

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