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3/23/2010
04:25 PM
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Technology Connects, Protects Seniors

Products for an aging -- but plugged-in -- population address brain fitness, social networking, personal monitoring, and the concerns of caregivers.

Yet while these applications offer impressive functionality, CEO Sarah Hoit describes the experience as being as much about the personal support as it is about the user-friendly technology. Combating isolation, connecting people with each other and enabling seniors to expand their world are at the core of this venture. While to date Connected Living has focused on living facilities using "ambassadors" to train seniors and staff, a new push to involve seniors living independently could unlock the potential that social networking can offer to our elders.

Home and personal monitoring also continue to advance. BeClose has announced a product that connects motion sensors throughout a home with automatic alerts sent to family or other caregivers when unexpected patterns are detected (lack of movement throughout the day, excessive bed rest, etc.). A Web portal allows customized tracking of different types of events with automated alerts for each interested family member or caregiver.

Other companies focus on different slices of the same space by placing sensors directly on a person's body. Wellcore's product is a clip-on device about the size of a small beeper. HaloMonitoring uses a band around the chest or waist. Unlike many remote alerts that require a manually press of a button to notify others to a problem, these products use accelerometers to analyze movement and automatically determine if a fall has occurred.

Given the reluctance of many seniors to let others know about accidents, even when they are injured, automated notifications can be a lifesaver. Gaining a senior's compliance to wear a monitoring device can be a challenge, however.

For families involved in the day-to-day activities involved with caregiving, there are a number of new tools, such as eCareDiary.com to help in the tracking and coordination of responsibilities relating to long term care. Developed by people who personally faced the challenges of caring for aging family members suffering from debilitating disease, the site assists in the sharing of health related documents and key medical information. It also provides a calendar for family members to coordinate and track appointments.

Another site geared towards caregivers, Caring.com is an in-depth resource center with information and forums covering the breadth of aging-related topics. Both sites include discussion boards and blogs to allow caregivers to connect with each other, share tips, and provide support during what can be a long and emotionally challenging period.

Finally, Caregivers needing information while mobile might check out two recently released iPhone apps developed by Dr. Marion Somers, an expert in the field of aging, and Presto Services, best known for a service that allows sending e-mail to people who don’t use a computer.

Elder 911 provides a guide in case of an elder medical emergency, and Elder 411 offers strategies to ease the daily pressures of providing elder care. Both contain information, clear advice and checklists to help caregivers deal with tough and emotionally challenging situations in the moment and on the go.

Michael Greene has written for InformationWeek about voice-recognition systems and futurist Ray Kurzweil.

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