Technology: A support for both seniors & care providers

After a fall that led to hospitalization 14 years ago, GTA resident Ruth was faced with a number of difficult decisions. First and foremost, what could be done to ensure she felt safe in her home but also allowed her to maintain a very active lifestyle?

Canada’s aging population has shifted the conversations we’re having about technology and successful, independent aging. At a time where technology seems to be moving so quickly and with a population that now has more seniors than children, it adds just one more element to navigating the aging process.

Ruth wanted to keep her freedom, and continue living an active life without making compromises fueled by fear. It was also important to her that her son, Mark, could continue to live his life. As much as she didn’t want to worry herself, she didn’t want him to worry either. Ruth began using the Philips Lifeline’s latest innovation—GoSafe—a wearable, light-weight pendant that provides support for true independence. Now at 79, you could say that Ruth’s life hasn’t skipped a beat.

Seniors today have a different outlook on their silver years. They are looking for freedom, independence and the opportunity to stay active and connected to the world around them. According to a Government of Canada report, a large majority of seniors are active later in life: 80 per cent of seniors participate frequently (at least monthly) in at least one social activity, 36 per cent perform volunteer work and 13 per cent participate in the work force. To compound these changes, 90 per cent of seniors in Canada are living in private homes—a historical shift from yesteryear.

Knowing that not everyone experiences a seamless transition with new technologies and the various ways it can improve daily life, the healthcare industry needs to respond with the right supports for these dynamic years. There is also onus on those caring for someone senior to consider their health, wellness and comfort—in particular, aging-in-place which appears to be a top priority for most.

The following tips are a great and empowering way to start the dialogue around a successful aging strategy:

  1. Have an open and frank conversation about everyone’s definition of successful aging. You may be surprised to hear that caregivers and care-receivers have different perspectives on what a fulfilled senior life looks like.
  2. Technology can be a huge support to seniors, including everything from safety monitoring to FaceTime or Facebook for connectivity.  The combination of these technologies, and the confidence that seniors feel after mastering various supports, enable feelings of empowerment and independent living.
  3. Care providers also need to consider implications for themselves as daily living begins to change for the care-receiver. The potential impact on transportation time or additional care required—in addition to running errands or supporting housework— should be considered to ensure the quality of care isn’t being compromised.

There is an undeniable freedom and peace of mind for everyone knowing their loved one is living in a safe, secure and connected environment. The changing Canadian population has called for technology and new innovation to help bridge this gap. As daily living for seniors continues to evolve, so do the supports needed both inside and outside the house, and from those that are providing care. Happiness in the home will be unique and tailored depending on the person, so it’s important to keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all solution.