Usually, the terms ‘technology’ and ‘elderly’ don’t mix. While some members of the older generation have got to grips with the likes of smartphones and sending emails, it’s still the younger generation who lead the way in terms of technology use and purchases. That being said, there have been major developments in the manufacturer of both technology that is accessible to pensioners, and technology specifically designed to appeal to those struggling with health or mobility issues as they get older – commonly known as ‘nanotechnology’. Some of these inventions have proved so beneficial amongst the elderly and disabled that many have claimed the technology has given the chance for a ‘normal’ life.
Advanced mobility aids
By ‘mobility aids’, we don’t mean manual equipment such as the wheelchair which has been around since the 5th century – possibly even before. Instead, we mean advanced assistive aids such as the stairlift, which is a much more modern piece of technology. Having been created in the 1920s as a byproduct of brainstorming ideas for a device to lift heavy textbooks between the floors of a library. The Office of Fair Trading reports that there are now more than 4.3 million users of mobility aids in the UK alone.
To put that in perspective, that’s more people than have interest-only mortgages, more people than are employed in the health and social sector and more people than play bingo!
Medical alert technology
Medical alert devices really are life changing. Taking the form of either pendants worn around the neck or wrist, or as fixed systems within the home, they provide a kind of background support that’s very discreet and unimposing and yet they can literally save lives.
Whether a cord is pulled when someone is in distress, or a heart rate monitor detects an abnormal beat, the relevant authorities can be summoned quickly and easily.
So how are these devices ‘life changing’? It’s believed that more than one third of all over 65′s will experience a fall as the result of mobility issues and a lack of balance that is a normal part of the aging process.
Whether a fall results in injury or not, it is certainly enough to shake the confidence of the faller.
Although medical alert devices do not directly reduce the risk of falls, they do help increase confidence and encourage the elderly and disabled to maintain an active lifestyle, knowing that help is available should they need it. This technology is excellent for helping the older generation maintain their independence. Seclusion and a lack of socialization are cited as a contributing factor to depression amongst the elderly, so these devices could boost both physical and mental health.
Global positioning systems
Memory loss is a common complaint not only amongst the elderly, but also amongst those approaching middle age.
As we age, we process information at a slower rate, and it’s reported that men and women as young as 45 years old can start experiencing the effects of a suboptimal memory.
Dementia, a common condition affecting the elderly, is a leading cause of expedited memory loss, with around 800,000 people in the UK being diagnosed with the condition. Memory loss is not only a worry for the sufferer themselves, but also for their family and friends, who become anxious about their loved ones continuing to venture out of the house alone. Global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS) are beginning to be utilised in terms of people safety and risk management.
Regular devices can accurately locate a user to 8 metres, and 10 out of 11 participants questioned during a GPS-based study claimed they would feel comfortable recommending such a device to elderly relatives.
Technology isn’t 'just for the young'
When thinking about technology, it’s things such as computers, smartphones and games consoles that come to mind – devices that are largely associated with the younger population.
However, the term ‘technology’ is very broad, and encompasses devices all across the spectrum. With the introduction of more advanced and flexible technology in recent years, more and more devices are being used to target the older market, and it’s expected that technology will soon become the go-to system in the healthcare sector.
We’re already starting to see this change, with devices such as the da Vinci system which allows surgeons to operate from a different location to the patient using robotic arms. It’s important to remember that technology is not just for the young.