Aging Gracefully With Smart Technology
A practicing physician who is also tech-savvy, Dr. Rakesh shares his insights into how technology can help elders deal with health problems that tag along as we age. Here is an excerpt from a recently concluded webinar by REAN foundation on “Building Healthy Habits For A Healthier Tomorrow.”
As we analyze some of the common health issues faced by elderly adults, brain aging is the biggest concern we can see in all ages as we are getting older. The second concern that needs attention is the unhealthy food we consume, leading to many other issues. Finally, loss of muscle mass as we age leads to falls and fractures. In this context, let us discuss how technology can help us during our older age. But before that, let us examine the kind of issues that seniors have to deal with daily.
Common Health Challenges in Aging Adults
Let us first look at coping with forgetfulness due to brain aging. Forgetfulness is sometimes mild and sometimes weird. Mild forgetfulness is when you forget something very basic. For instance, forgetting to take critical medicine or monitoring the vitals regularly if we suffer from a chronic disorder. Sometimes we even tend to forget to keep our health reports in place. We reach the doctor and realize that our health record is not with us. These are mostly harmless cases of forgetfulness. But sometimes forgetfulness gets severe. Many elders often forget the address of their home. They go to the market or walk in the morning or evening, forget where they live, and never return home.
A common issue noticed among seniors is that sometimes they forget to take the prescription or medical record to the doctor when they are enlisting for a regular checkup.
We see that Indian youth migrate to other western countries for better prospects and opportunities. Back home, this leads to the separation of the elders from their kids. When younger people leave behind their elderly parents in India and move abroad, it seems to lead to a different kind of pandemic, or you can even say an epidemic related to age.
Having unhealthy food continuously can lead to obesity in elderly adults, or worse, chronic disorders. Sometimes eating unbalanced can cause undue ill effects on health. For example, a deficiency of vitamin D or calcium can lead to osteoporosis. One of the main reasons seniors are forced to consume an unhealthy diet is because they often live alone. With their son or daughter living aboard, there is no one to cook fresh, healthy food for them. Sometimes it may also not be reasonable to hire a cook. So they try to eat what they can rather than eating wholesome, nutritious food.
Loss of muscle mass
One of the inevitable problems seniors face is the gradual loss of muscle mass as they age. Loss of muscle mass coupled with age-related osteoporosis can cause frequent falls in elderly adults. Most elders stay alone, and at times, there is no one to even respond to their cries for help if they fall. We have observed that seniors often remain in the washroom or bedroom for hours before getting some help.
So how do you think technology can help here?
Technologies That Transform Senior Care
Though problems such as the above seem very trivial, they sometimes cause so much stress to elderly adults. Deploying efficient healthcare technology could be the answer to these issues. It’s often misunderstood that technology falls in the realm of the younger generation. The reality, however, is that it is the older adults who get to benefit the most from technological innovations.
REAN Health Guru - Improving Care for the Elderly
REAN has two applications for the elderly population or anyone suffering from a chronic disorder. Let us now understand how REAN HealthGuru addresses each of the challenges listed above.
REAN HealthGuru allows individuals to set auto-reminders for their medication for anyone who constantly needs to monitor their medicine intake. Our application alerts individuals when it is time to take medicine. The app further allows you to input information about the dose of each medication. Thus, whenever seniors forget the dosage, they can readily get the dosage information they need.
Additionally, the application is also equipped with other features that allow you to monitor your vitals like blood pressure, pulse, oxygen saturation, body temperature, etc.
Health Record Maintenance
REAN HealthGuru also provides the option to store data about prescriptions or other reports. Thus, they are readily available to share with a doctor whenever required. The app is HIPAA compliant. Thus, it handles privacy concerns so that people do not need to worry about data security or privacy.
We saw how sometimes circumstances force seniors to have unhealthy food. This is an issue that can be overcome with the help of diet and nutrition apps. These are integrated with food calorie counters that keep track of the daily calorie intake and measure them against the personal nutrition requirements. REAN Health Guru has a nutrition management module that helps monitor the nutritional needs of aging adults and warns them when their food intake is devoid/deficient in nutrition. In addition, we have a REAN Health Forum where people can discuss or clarify what they can eat, find out options for sourcing healthy food in their nearby locations, and get insights from the health articles we publish.
Other Tech-options for Assisting Aging Adults
Automatic Pill Dispensers
We talked about how seniors often forget to take their medicines on time. There are also scenarios where many of the aging population forget the dosage of the medicines. There are automatic pill dispensers available in the market to solve this issue. These devices dispense the medicines at the right time and the right dose.
In our discussion above, we stated that seniors often tend to forget their location. This can be overcome with the help of dedicated GPS trackers or even our smartphones. Google device locators can track where the device is located at any given time. Hence, ensuring that their smartphones have GPS enabled will help locate the missing seniors if they forget their way back home.
Wearable Devices & Sensors
Loss of muscle mass with age is inevitable. However, technology can be of great assistance to prevent falls in aging adults. Accelerometers or gyroscopic senses attached to wearable devices can recognize the orientation of adults and detect the possibility of falls. In the event of a fall, these devices can be programmed to send quick alerts to the primary caregivers or emergency services, thereby ensuring timely assistance.
There may also be situations where seniors sometimes fall off guard from their beds. There are sensors available in the market that can be placed under mattresses to address the issue. Again, these can be set up to send alerts to family members or caregivers and can help prevent an adverse situation.
Video Calls and Cameras
Elders living alone has become the order of the day. With people having to migrate to other places across the world in search of a better livelihood, most seniors are left on their own to deal with their problems of loneliness or other age-related problems. Although this issue has always existed, we can now tackle it with the help of technology. Technology can bring distributed families closer. Grandparents can have daily conversations with their grandchildren. In fact, by installing cameras in their activity areas, grandparents get to watch their grandchildren’s activities. It helps them feel more connected and can address the problem of loneliness.
For several centuries, caring for elders followed a routine pattern. This will involve:
- A doctor - to diagnose health conditions and offer medical advice
- A caregiver/home nurse - to handle the daily needs.
Thankfully, the situation has improved a lot for good. Technology has made caring for the elderly much simpler. In fact, technology empowers seniors to be independent and handle their health needs on their own confidently. Whether it is remaining connected to family members or keeping the elders safe, tech-driven tools are undoubtedly the future of senior care!