Archive for the ‘Health Tech’ Category

Health Tech, Wearable Gadgets in the Spotlight at CES 2014

For many of us, the New Year brings a sense of renewal, motivation to meet our goals in the coming year, a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, and a whole bunch of optimism and feel-good vibes.For technology enthusiasts, it also brings the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where gadget makers show off their latest mind-boggling innovations in Las Vegas. This year, the health and fitness sector is getting a lot of attention, as more wearable devices that help us get and stay healthy and tools for managing health and wellness are beginning to reach the market. This year’s event wrapped up last week, on January 10th.

Aging technology solutions is a growing market

Fox Business cites the aging population as a driver behind the growing trend. “Three medical technology stories to watch in this arena will be wearable technologies for fitness, aging-in-place technologies, and real-time monitoring, which all tackle problems stemming from an aging population and facilitate a digital transition to a more consumer-centric approach to healthcare,” says author John D. Korry. Tech for Seniors

Healthcare consumers are now more informed and take a more active role in their own care, which is why the industry at large is emphasizing its focus on patient-centered care. “It’s all about earlier detection of issues, delivery of care in a manner least invasive to a person’s living standards, and use of data to take a more proactive role in personal health — enabled by digital technologies and applications,” Korry says.

Remote care and monitoring products make an impact

Standout products at this year’s CES mostly center on technologies that aid aging-in-place. According to business news and analysis site FT.com, exhibits from the digital health sector grew by 40 percent compared to last year. One example is MD Live, a company enabling patients to schedule appointments with doctors via the television screen. Patients have access to more than 3,000 physicians who can treat minor ailments remotely and send prescriptions to patients’ local pharmacies. Tied to the Affordable Care Act, MD Live’s service is contracted with Nevada’s Exchange in addition to 400 major companies, including the likes of Yahoo and Qualcomm.

AgeinPlaceTech.com identifies 10 technologies emerging from CES 2014 that could prove valuable for seniors and caregivers, such as CarePredict, which demonstrated a product called CarePredict Tempo at this year’s event. The gadget itself is a $99 bracelet that packs the wearer’s movement, location and motion. Additional room beacons can be added for $19 each. This data is sent to the cloud, meaning caregivers can monitor aging loved ones while at work or even from afar. There are also alert capabilities, which notifies caregivers if patterns are detected that could indicate danger. Check out CarePredict.com for more details.

Fall prevention from afar and tools connecting caregivers with providers

Other wearable devices and remote monitoring tools were also showcased at CES 2014, and some take a slightly different approach. SenseGiz, for instance, is a fall detection device to notify family and friends with an alarm and text alert so they can obtain help quickly. There’s also a panic button for emergencies and an option to post a Facebook update to alert more family and friends. With three sensitivity levels for fall detection, this gadget is a valuable tool for seniors living independently or living with family members but alone during the work day. Learn more about SenseGiz in this press release.

Senior Housing News also identifies a few standout products unveiled for seniors at CES 2014, including a smart pill box, the Wellograph Watch that tracks vital signs, and Angela Express, a system designed for senior living providers to connect rehab residents their family and friends, and providers via video chat, instant messaging and other communication features. The system facilitates communication between providers and family, helping family members provide proper care and promote wellness, easing the transition from rehabilitation settings to home.

These products are just a few of the latest tech innovations with valuable potential for seniors, caregivers and senior living providers. The best is yet to come, but one thing is clear: Technology is re-shaping the possibilities in senior care and senior living, and new products are making the lives of seniors and caregivers simpler every day.

Image by O_m on Stock.xchng

Article by Angela Stringfellow

Google and Apple Team Up to Fight Aging

Google has its hand in pretty much everything. From search engines to social networking, and now…aging? It’s true: Google has teamed up with Apple in an effort to fight aging through a new initiative called Calico (California Life Company). Calico’s entire mission is to prolong life — with a focus on health and well-being, and particularly, how technology has a positive impact on aging and aging-associated diseases. The main focus will be on diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease.

Apple, Genentech Chairman Arthur D. Levinson to Head Calico

The effort will be headed by Arthur D. Levinson, chairman and former CEO of Genentech and chairman of Apple, a founding investor who will also serve as the company’s CEO. Levinson will continue to be chairman of Apple and Genentech, in addition to continuing to hold his spot as director of Hoffmann-La Roche. (Side note: It has yet to be revealed how Levinson will manage to find the time to essentially head four major corporations, but perhaps his attempt at the humanly impossible will reveal some clues as to how to slow the aging process.)

Google’s CEO, Larry Page, shares his excitement about what Levinson can bring to the table at Calico in a statement: “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives. It’s impossible to imagine anyone better than Art—one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and CEOs of our generation—to take this new venture forward.”

What Exactly is Calico’s Approach?

But here’s the thing: No one really knows exactly what Calico will be doing, and anyone who has an inside scoop isn’t spilling any details. It’s not really clear what type of approach Google intends to take to tackle aging. Software? Apps? Diagnostics? It seems some are speculating that Calico will take a “big-data approach” to the problem by amassing huge amounts of data from patients and then conducting sophisticated analysis to advance research. Prevention might also be a major focus.

Calico: Not Just Another Google Health

And this isn’t Google’s first foray into the healthcare scene. Google Health, which aimed to empower patient decision-making through better access to information, was shut down on January 1, 2013. Google didn’t wait long to re-enter the health niche with the announcement of Calico less than a year later.

Google Health, originally launched in 2008, allowed users to upload or import their healthcare records, have prescriptions filled, get lab results, and even get text alerts when it was time to take medications. Calico appears to be taking a broader approach that’s more focused on the big picture of researching, diagnosing, and preventing the diseases associated with aging — rather than a focus on the patient-management side of the puzzle.

According to an article in TechCrunch, one of Calico’s main focuses is to “dramatically extend human life,” by about 100 years. And because today’s patients are more health-savvy (25 percent of smartphone users have downloaded at least one health-related app, and 60 percent of adults seek health info online, TechCrunch says), Calico is hopefully entering the scene at the right time.

While Calico is an interesting avenue for Google to take, one thing’s for sure: If Google sets its mind to it, it’ll happen. It might take a few failed attempts — but Google always rises each time it falls.

Image via bizmaticsinc.com

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Why Technology Matters in Senior Living

Earlier this week, we revealed some details about how our call center technology works. But why does it matter? Does it really matter at all? It’s actually critically important – both for seniors and their families who call us and the customers that we, SeniorHomes.com, serve. Here’s why.

Families are desperately seeking help

Searching for senior housing can be a grueling, frustrating experience. Families are faced with so many options, so many choices, and given so much information at a time when they’re already filled with guilt and trepidation. It doesn’t take much to push a family over the stress threshold during this time, especially if the need for senior living came about suddenly and unexpectedly.

Sometimes, clients call us with urgent needs. Maybe a loved one fell and injured herself or suffered another setback that makes it unsafe for her to remain in her current living environment. When family lives in another state, it’s no simple matter to arrange someone to stay with an aging loved one. They often don’t know where to turn to get the best, most reliable information – or even any information at all, especially when they’re at a long-distance disadvantage, making it impossible for them to tour communities. They need help now, and nothing is more frustrating than making calls only to leave endless voicemails.

We provide immediate support and information

When seniors or their loved ones call us for help, we’re often the first contact they’ve made with anyone in the senior living industry. And we’re right there, ready to help them at the drop of a hat, providing prompt, courteous and friendly support and understanding when they need it most. So when that call is made, we’re doing a number of things:

  • Helping them decide what type of housing is the right fit
  • Helping them navigate through the various features and amenities that they need
  • Helping them determine the features and amenities that best suit their lifestyles or personal preferences
  • Putting them in contact with facilities who can provide tours and in-person interviews and evaluations with ease

When we do all that, we’ve just made things a whole lot simpler. Quickly.

And many of our callers breathe a sigh of relief. Finally – help!

Starting things off on a positive note

Now we’ve started them out with a really positive experience, and they’re going into tours and interviews with an open mind. They don’t have any preconceived notions about the quality of a senior living community simply because their initial experience wasn’t a pleasant one. But they certainly could, if their experience with our staff here at SeniorHomes.com didn’t meet our quality standards.

If a client has a negative experience with a company like SeniorHomes.com, they’re probably suspicious and untrusting of any other representatives of the industry. They might go into a tour looking for things that are wrong. And they may pass on the perfect senior living community for their aging loved one just because they carried over those negative emotions.

How many times have you had an unfortunate encounter? A bad experience, say, shopping at the mall? It only takes one poor customer service experience to sour your mood for the whole day. And if you visit subsequent stores after having a bad experience, don’t you find yourself looking at other store clerks with a little more suspicion – even though they’re not the person who treated you poorly?

The same principle holds true here. By starting our clients off on a bright, friendly and positive note, we’re setting the stage for them to have a great experience throughout their search for senior housing. Because where they end up at the end of their search may very well be the place they call home for the remainder of their Golden Years.

This is just one example of the ways technology helps companies create a better customer experience. In the senior living and healthcare industry, technology is bringing things to light that were never-before possible, such as monitoring home care patients remotely, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease earlier than ever before, creating new, more effective and fun methods for delivering physical therapy, and so much more. Technology matters, and it’s shaping the future.

Article by Angela Stringfellow

Image via Stock.xchng by intuitives

A Look At the SeniorHomes.com Call Center Technology

At SeniorHomes.com, we operate a call center that screens thousands of leads and processes tens of thousands of calls per month. To handle this volume, we decided to build our own call center product using the Twilio API. This decision was reached after researching nearly a dozen call center products, and finding that none of them allowed us the flexibly and integration we required. If you’d like to read more regarding this decision, read Twilio’s case study about SeniorHomes.com.

Over the next couple months, we will discuss some of the more interesting technologies that our engineering team has implemented in our call center. Our goal, through these posts, is to share how some of the more difficult problems were solved and the results of implementing these solutions.

Real-time updates using node.js

One challenge with our call center is that we operate a mixed inbound/outbound environment. Our call center agents are responsible for handling both inbound callers and placing outbound calls, depending on the overall inbound call volume. What this means is that our agents need to monitor the statuses of their coworkers to determine whether they should make themselves available for answering calls or place outbound calls. The challenge with this system is that the agents’ statuses need to be shared across the entire team on a real-time basis, something that has been traditionally difficult to do with internet-based applications.

Senior Living Call Center Technology

Node.js with WebSockets was used to handle the real-time data sharing. We found this solution was very scalable and had great performance. Compared to AJAX polling (another option considered), the amount of server traffic generated by the node.js/WebSocket system was at least 100x better, and (more importantly) the responsiveness of the system was at least 10x better.

After implementing the node.js/WebSocket solution, we’ve noticed immediate improvements in our inbound service rate. To operate a mixed inbound/outbound call center environment, it’s imperative that agents have real-time data regarding the availability of other agents to manage their availability for inbound calls, and the node.js system has provided a great solution to this problem.

This technology enables our team of expert Care Advisors to provide immediate service to clients, maintaining the SeniorHomes.com quality service standard. In an upcoming post, we’ll be discussing the implications of rapid lead response times in the healthcare and senior living industry, as well as how this technology benefits our customers.

Post by Ken Ploeger

Top 10 Health Technology Blogs

Technology is re-shaping the healthcare industry. With HIPAA and other regulations getting stricter by the day while technology becomes more prevalent for things like maintaining patient records, staying compliant becomes challenging. At the same time, new technology is streamlining the delivery of patient care, reducing medical errors and saving lives. Leading experts in health technology are taking to the blogosphere to keep both providers and consumers up-to-date on the latest technologies impacting the industry. Here’s a look at a few, listed in no particular order of importance.

1. HealthIT Buzz – Where else to turn for the latest regulatory information than the federal government? Run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), HealthIT Buzz shares information on the ongoing transition of the healthcare industry to electronic health records. Regulations like the HIPAA Security Rule weigh heavily on Covered Entities, so this blog is an excellent resource for keeping tabs on changes to the rules and guidelines.

2. Personal Health Tech Blog – Ira Brodsky blogs about health technology from a personal perspective in an easy-to-understand format. While this blog is relatively new, we’ve included it in this list thanks to the easily digestible news on health technology that’s relevant to patients and caregivers. Definitely one to watch.

3. iHealthTran – The Institute for Health Technology Transformation “is the leading organization committed to bringing together private and public sector leaders fostering the growth and effective use of technology across the healthcare industry.” The Institute offers programming spanning a wide range of healthcare industry entities, including providers, medical device manufacturers, consumer and patient groups, and much more. The blog is engaging and highly informative — discussing the use of Twitter for customer service, new innovations that shape patient care, and more.

4. Kevin MD – Kevin Pho, MD, is “social media’s leading physician voice,” providing physician insights on the latest breaking medical news. Trust us, this blog is anything but dry. Pho sheds some light on the new voice of the physician world–the patient-empowering, thoughtful, and engaged practitioners that thrive on saving and improving lives, and aren’t afraid of trying the next great technology to make it happen.

5. Health Tech Hatch – This blog covers mobile technology — including a recent call-out to mobile app developers to come up with something to ease the process of self-care, along with news on progress with the move to electronic health records, cost savings and tons of other useful tidbits.

6. CNET - One of the web’s leading news publications, CNET has an impressive section devoted solely to health technology. Recent posts include coverage of a children’s cancer wing transformed into a “superhero” wing and other heartwarming and informative news on the cutting edge of health tech.

7. My Health Tech Blog - The great thing about this list of health tech blogs is that there are so many different perspectives represented. Deborah Leyva, author of My Health Tech Blog, spent 17 years in the technology industry and is now a Registered Nurse and Health Informatics Specialist. She offers an abundance of insightful expertise on everything from HIPAA (including some valuable HIPAA checklists and tools), to healthcare analytics, awards, and EHR.

8. eHealth - Focusing on all things electronic health technology, eHealth is managed by John Sharp, a medical center IT manager in Ohio. Sharp is active in a number of premier healthcare and technology associations and brings his expertise forward on e-health, personal health records, Web 2.0 and more.

9. Health Plan Innovation - Health practitioners aren’t the only entities impacted by the technology wave. Health Plan Innovation focuses on ways to use innovation to “solve health care access, quality and funding issues.” We don’t think there’s anyone out there who would disagree that this is exactly the kind of thought leadership we need to solve the nation’s healthcare crisis.

10. Meaningful HIT News - Neil Versel is a professional healthcare journalist, bringing yet another point of view to this blog roundup. Versel has written on healthcare technology for a wide range of publications and brings his investigative journalism experience to the blogosphere, sharing both light-hearted looks at the challenges in the industry as well as a serious approach to covering some of the biggest changes impacting practitioners, quality, mobile health and other pertinent facets of the industry.

What are your favorite reads on the intersection between health and technology? Any favorite bloggers who share insights from the changing world of health IT in an engaging way? Tell us what health IT blogs you love in the comments below.

Image via Flickr by tedeytan
Post by Angela Stringfellow

Mobile Devices, Apps and Online Tools: The Changing Caregiving Landscape

The way we care for aging loved ones is changing as rapidly as the number of family caregivers is increasing across the U.S. And that means technology needs to keep up, as Baby Boomers and other Sandwich Gen-ers are demanding more modern tools to manage their loved ones’ care–even from across the miles. The tech landscape is happy to oblige–but are developers meeting the bar when it comes to engaging caregivers?

Caregivers relying on the Internet more and more

According to recent data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, caregivers are increasingly making use of technology to help manage the care of their loved ones, connect with other caregivers for emotional support and even to research disease-specific treatment options and coping strategies. There are quite a few new apps on the market targeted to caregivers, but Pew’s data suggests that caregivers aren’t yet embracing the power of Web applications.

Pew’s latest research reveals some compelling statistics:

  • 39 percent of adults in the U.S. are serving as caregivers to another adult with significant health issues.
  • 72 percent of caregivers have gone online in search of heath-related information–compared to just 50 percent of non-caregivers.
  • 90 percent of survey respondents have a cell phone, but only one-third have used a mobile device to gather health data.
  • Only 11 percent of those surveyed have used online tools or applications for caregiving purposes.

That’s not stopping developers from creating platforms and applications that could make the lives of caregivers easier. Recently, a number of applications have been launched, designed to help caregivers do everything from schedule appointments to searching for health-related information.

Apps replace paper-and-pencil tracking methods

Until smartphones became the norm, caregivers often relied on paper-and-pencil methods to keep track of their loved ones’ medications, dosage amounts, times and even to track when the meds had been taken. Naturally, it’s not a foolproof tracking method–and posed challenges for long-distance caregivers and situations in which multiple family members take responsibility for helping mom or dad manage their care and medications. Coordinating that care required frequent emails, meetings and phone calls to keep everyone on the same page. But now, there are apps that can track the same information with a few simple clicks–and instantly update any other family member who logs in on the current status to avoid overlaps and dosing errors.

One application serving this need and more is Balance, created by the National Alzheimer Center. The Pill Box feature is the app’s medication manager, but the app also offers features such as an RSS feed of the latest Alzheimer’s disease information and research, along with a Doctor Diary to immediately notify your loved one’s health providers of critical changes. There are dozens of other tools and apps offering similar functionality.

So why aren’t more caregivers making use of this technology? A recent report by Gigaom says developers aren’t doing enough to engage this vast audience. According to Pew Internet’s associate director Susannah Fox, “Caregivers seem to be the kind of kid who sits in the front row of every class. They are voracious information consumers – they consume it like it’s a competitive sport. They don’t let paywalls stand in their way and they’re most likely to tap every information source that’s available to them, including offline.”

There’s a big opportunity for health companies of all kinds to engage the caregiver audience, with tools and resources for medication management, scheduling, health information and so much more. Fox says caregivers are a largely untapped market, yet they’re among the most wired and technology-hungry consumers today.

Caregivers, do you use online tools and mobile applications to manage your loved ones’ care? Which tools and resources do you find most valuable? Weigh in with your comments below.

Image via Flickr by drukelly

Judge Spotlight: SageMinder Offers Senior Care Calls and Caregiver Tools

This is the first in a series of spotlights highlighting our 2013 Best Senior Living Awards expert judges. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to find out about our spotlights as they go live and learn more about our panel of prestigious senior living experts and how they serve the senior living community!

SageMinder.Com is an award-winning website for family caregivers.  Users find articles, tips, forms to download, community forums, blog, and even guided relaxation meditations on our site.  SageMinder also offers some new technologies to assist the family caregiver and the senior at home. Lori Paterno

Care Calls

SageMinder is the home of the patented SageMinder Senior Care Call System.  SageMinder Care Calls provide reliable daily medication reminders and/or check in calls automatically and notify a family caregiver immediately of the call’s outcome.  These interactive calls make it possible for a caregiver to know what is going on through the day even if they cannot be there at that moment due to work or other family obligations.  Care Calls offer peace of mind and a regular routine for the safety and assurance of elderly people at home.

MySage Online Portal

Caregivers are notoriously busy and often juggling multiple roles.  That is why SageMinder has also introduced these new MySage online caregiver tools to help families with all their daily tasks:

  • Online Calendar with Free Text Message Alerts

SageMinder Calendar lets a user schedule recurring appointments, activities, or other tasks into a calendar and send email and/or text messages at pre-programmed times for reminding anyone in the family.  This is a free service.

  • Family Care Center

The Family Care Center (FCC) is a private social network for just the family and close friends of an elderly loved one.  Set up by a family caregiver, this portal can help the care team coordinate tasks, communicate privately about health updates, and share ideas, photos, events, and more.

  • TrackIt

TrackIts utilize the same patented scheduling and reminding system to help anyone remember to log progress toward health, exercise and fitness goals.  You program in the goals and the TrackIt system will remind you to log your activities.

These services and the caregiver website are all designed to empower the family caregiver with the tools, information, and ideas to succeed at this most honorable job of caring for another person.  For more information, go to www.sageminder.com.

 

Lori Paterno, M.Ed. has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Penn State University.  She has over 25 years experience in human services, counseling, and education.

Critical things you need to know before choosing a nursing home for your loved one: Part 1 of 3

This is a guest article contributed by Dave Wessinger, CTO of PointClickCare.com.

This is a three-part series, where we’ll be discussing three essential elements you should look for when choosing a nursing home for a loved one to ensure they are receiving the best quality of care.

Preventing loved one’s from falling victim to inaccurate nursing home documentation

It goes without saying that within any industry, inaccurate documentation leads to problems—sometimes small, and sometimes not so small. But within nursing homes, regardless of the scale, problems always hit home a little harder because the nature of the business is caring for the well being of people—the people you care about.

charting

Image by Kurhan on Stock.xchng

Inaccurate documentation in the your loved one’s medical chart has a potent fluidity that streams through the entire home, leaving a negative trail everywhere it goes. When incorrect information about a resident’s condition is recorded and processed (or not documented at all), the mistake spreads virally and ultimately circles back to the resident. When that happens, another cycle begins, but this one comes with a bit more bite. The problem has now leapt from paper into real life—residents are now exposed to illnesses, hospitalization, adverse medication errors and many other inherent stresses attached to inaccurate documentation…cue the next cycle.

This is an issue many nursing homes face on a daily basis, and the sad part is, the resident becomes an innocent victim. But they don’t have to suffer. If nursing homes can find a way to better manage their documentation process, they can significantly reduce these pain cycles.

So when seeking a nursing home for a loved one, what should you be looking for to ensure their care is being recorded accurately?

When it comes to the documentation process for patient record, diligent nursing homes employ an Electronic Health Record (EHR) platform, a system that optimizes caregiving practices by electronically collecting health-information about individual residents. Homes who have not yet caught up to the curve might still be using the alternative, a paper-based model, which is notorious for its holes and inefficiencies.

Nursing homes adopting an EHR improve their documentation processes through Point of Care (POC), a solution designed to effectively capture and share important resident information electronically at or near the bedside.

POC offers an easy-to-use interface that enables nursing staff to document clinical care activities at or near the point of resident care—in other words, in real-time. With POC, care workers create timely, accurate and complete documentation of residents’ condition, while increasing the amount of time spent with them and reducing cycles required for routine administrative tasks.

Accessed through kiosks, wall-mounted touchscreens, or laptop computers, POC eliminates error-prone paper-based tracking and assures documentation compliance and significantly increases the productivity and efficiency of care workers, creating a positive effect on the home’s quality of care. Also, POC technology enables staff to easily document critical resident information and manage all care tasks to be completed within their shift. Users can see pictures of all the residents under their care during that shift, as well as the scheduled care required for each.

Furthermore, care workers can quickly access the most relevant and timely information to proactively address resident needs, and information captured at the bedside is instantly available to other care workers. It’s having the ability to file data at the moment it’s received that is so essential for accurate documentation. Kirsten Lansford, Director of Nursing at Sunny Vista explains, “Our staff is using POC kiosks situated at or near our residents’ bedside as care delivery occurs. Our clinical team is documenting what is occurring with the resident in real-time, which has enabled us to capture patient’s needs, adjust staffing support accordingly, and ultimately improve our quality of patient care.”

Ultimately, the value POC provides for nursing homes and residents is ubiquitous. It’s proven that real-time, electronic documentation significantly reduces inaccurate information. This translates to staff spending less time entering data and dealing with the pains of incorrect documentation, and spending more time caring for the residents. It’s a win/win situation for everybody.

When choosing a facility for your loved one, be sure to incorporate Point of Care technology on your must-have list. It can prevent a world of stress, and at the same time provide better quality of life. Join us for Part 2 coming soon, where we’ll be focusing on electronic medication administration records (eMAR)—a proven method to prevent the dangers of medication errors.

My Grandma Loves Her iPad: Seniors Embrace Tech

A decade or so ago, it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone say they don’t have a cell phone. Now the thought of being without a mobile device is practically unheard of, whether you’re 8 or 80 years old. As mobile technology has become increasingly widespread, usage is saturating both the younger and older demographics.

When it comes to seniors, technology can serve as so much more than a means to send text messages to friends. Cell phones and mobile devices can be a direct link to valuable health information as well as a lifeline in emergencies and a connection to the outside world.

Today, no one blinks an eye when teens remark that they’re “texting Grandma.” It’s become the norm, and seniors are embracing the value of technology more than ever before. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) senior citizens use email and search engines. Back in 2009, Nielsen reported that six million more seniors were using the internet than in 2004 — today, it’s nearly four years later and seniors’ use of technology shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.

Seniors embrace mobile tech

Image by Jeena Paradies on Flickr

Pew Internet’s research offers useful insights

Casey Dowd, who writes for The Boomer column at Fox Business, spoke with Mary Madden, senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project (and co-author of Pew Internet’s recent survey on older adults using the internet) to find out what Madden thinks of the group’s recent findings.

Madden says she believes older demographics are embracing the power of social networking as a way to stay connected to friends and family — both near and far. Madden points out that social media adoption is a “trickle-up” effect, with younger family members being early adopters and encouraging older relatives to take advantage of the benefits technology offers.

Pew Internet’s research shows that adults over the age of 50 say staying in touch with family is the primary reason they use social media. Facebook remains the number one social network among older adult users, with LinkedIn falling in a distant second. It’s worth mentioning, however, that Boomers comprise LinkedIn’s primary user base.

New devices offer ease of use for seniors

About half of adults 65 and older have access to the internet; among them, more than 8 out of 10 (82 percent) are online at least once during an average day. With internet use among the elderly becoming so widespread, younger generations are encouraging them to use modern devices which offer more functionality and increased mobility. Smartphones, for instance, offer internet access but can also be easily carried in a pocket or purse. In an emergency, these devices are much more useful than a desktop PC.

Family members are also increasingly purchasing iPads and other tablet devices for older relatives — especially those who primarily use them to browse the web, send emails and stay in touch via social networking. Tablets are even more practical in many cases than laptops thanks to their easy configuration and use. Sure, you can use a laptop while you’re sitting on the couch, but wouldn’t you rather be using a lighter-weight tablet?

Technology enhances quality of life

The increasing use of technology among older adults isn’t merely a passing trend. Mobile devices help seniors:

  • Stay in touch with long-distance friends and family
  • Track health and wellness
  • Email a physician with a non-emergent question
  • Keep track of appointments
  • Read the local and national news
  • Enhance their social circles
  • Get involved with local groups and activities
  • Improve socialization
  • And much more

If you or an older relative has been hesitant to embrace emerging technologies, give it a shot or encourage them to do so. Modern devices offer impressive usability, and many seniors find that they’re not as intimidating as they thought. Most older adults who decide to give a mobile device a try have never looked back — they’re happily chatting away with friends near and far.

8 Holiday Gift Ideas for Caregivers

Attention holiday shoppers!

Is there a caregiver on your holiday gift-giving list this year? This group is often difficult to buy for, because the bulk of their time is spent tending to an aging loved one or spouse. Whether you’re out battling long lines during the busiest shopping season of the year or you plan to cash in on digital deals for Cyber Monday, we have some great gift ideas for you for the caregivers in your lives.

  1. A journal. Documenting your thoughts and emotions is a welcome release for many caregivers. From simple to fancy, journals can make a great gift for caregivers who enjoy writing or journaling.
  2. An Amazon Kindle or a Nook.A Kindle or Nook is an easy-to-transport reading device that can allow a caregiver to read a favorite book, newspaper or magazine anywhere. Long waits in doctor’s office waiting rooms or time spent keeping watch over an elderly loved one can be more enjoyable with some entertainment. (Not to mention, you can avoid touching the germ-filled courtesy magazines and save yourself and your loved one from an unwelcome seasonal cold.) Load it up with an inspirational book, such as Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul, or a new novel by a favorite author.

    Great gifts for caregivers

    Image by weliton on Stock.xchng

  3. A smartphone. Caregivers have a lot to keep track of: Medications, appointments, notes and reminders, lists of supplies needed, not to mention important contact information for healthcare providers. A smartphone can be an invaluable resource for a caregiver who’s always on the go but needs to be constantly connected.
  4. A healthcare and scheduling app designed for caregivers. To go along with that new smartphone (or a smartphone they already have), a healthcare application can provide a solid foundation for tracking all that caregiving information. These apps are free or very affordable, such as Caregiver’s Touch for $4.99 or Elder411 for just $1.99 from the iTunes store.
  5. A domain name with one year of hosting. If the caregiver in your life is tech-savvy and the writing type, a domain name and one year of hosting can be exactly what they need to start blogging their journey, a hobby that many caregivers say is a great source of stress relief.
  6. A “gift certificate” for free respite care along with a restaurant or shopping gift card. Offer up your services to provide some respite for a few hours or a few days, and include a gift card for a favorite restaurant or retail store so you know your loved one will get out and do something fun for themselves.
  7. A photobook or scrapbook. Caregivers are sometimes so busy keeping track of medications and appointments they lack the time to do what’s really important: Document memories. A gift of a photobook or scrapbook can be a gentle reminder to take time out to appreciate the memorable moments–and makes it easier to get started.
  8. A spa gift certificate. Caregivers spend hours on their feet tending to their loved ones. A gift certificate for a spa treatment, such as a pedicure or massage, would offer some R&R along with some well-deserved pampering.

The best gift for a caregiver might not be expensive; it could even be free. If you have a caregiver on your list this holiday season, choose a gift from the heart that they’ll cherish and utilize for a long time to come.

Caregivers: What would be the best gift you could receive this holiday season? Tell us in the comments or visit us on Facebook to join the conversation!