Smart technologies allow seniors to age in place


Aging in place is growing older without having to move, or moving to a home of your choice.

Possible assistance needs for older adults include:

  • Outdoor home maintenance and gardening
  • Indoor home maintenance
  • Heavy or light cleaning and housework

  • Transportation to grocery store, other shopping trips and doctor appointments
  • Meal preparation
  • Personal care assistance
  • Emergency call or response systems


More than 80 percent of seniors desire to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives, according to the AARP. And there’s a growing multibillion-dollar technology market eager to help make those dreams come true.

Smart technologies such as monitoring apps, GPS tracking and sensory detectors are making it easier for seniors to age in place independently, and easing the worry of the adult children who care for them from afar.

For example, unobtrusive sensors can be set up to monitor daily activities — like turning on the television, going to the bathroom, opening the refrigerator door — and alert caregivers when there is a change in routine.

Can’t remember which medication to take? There’s an app for that, as well as other electronic options to monitor the pillbox. Want to know if dad is taking the car out? There’s tracking for that as well.

The senior tech market is predicted to reach $20 billion by 2020, said national tech expert Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch. Among other services, she provides guidance about technologies so that boomers and seniors can remain in their home of choice.

Among the latest senior technologies, the most interesting are GPS tracking and fall detection, Orlov said.

Sensory devices can map locations inside and outside the home, an important feature for Alzheimer’s patients who tend to wander. Fall detectors work by alerting caregivers when a fall occurs. Sensor-infused carpets can measure changes in gait and prevent falls proactively.

The health tech market is also growing, especially in the area of telemedicine, which is a benefit to seniors, said MaryLea Quinn, a licensed medical social worker who serves as chair for the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the National Aging in Place Council.

Having blood pressure and other routine screenings performed in the home with the data submitted electronically eliminates the need for transportation to and from the doctor’s office.

Quinn said insurance companies are leading the way in developing smart technologies for delivering senior care. They know that future consumers — those tech-savvy boomers — will demand it, she said.

Still, there’s more to be done with refining the products. Most are not “well-packaged or integrated,” Orlov observed. Caregivers are forced to buy several different monitoring devices to meet their needs, which can be expensive.

Also, caregivers get more out of the products than the people they’re supposed to protect, she said. And more work is needed to address social interaction, a vital need for seniors who live alone.

While aging in place doesn’t mean you’ll never move, it does mean that you aren’t forced to move because of age-related limitations, Quinn said.

Boomers in particular have not planned well for this stage of life, she said. Because of that, NAIPC has developed a free needs assessment covering all aspects of aging in place. The 19-page survey helps seniors know what to expect, make their preferences and then move toward a plan to get there.

The survey can be downloaded for free from

“Our society wants to avoid aging, but we need to be more forward thinking,” Quinn said.