Smart technology—or gerontechnology—devices include things like telecare and telehealth, robotics, and various information and communication devices, from smartphones to health trackers. With all of these products available to do anything from control lighting and appliances with one swipe to sensors to track movements and remind you that it’s time to move or take a medication, the jury is still out on how many seniors will use these products.
Gerontechnology devices are available across the world and promise seniors healthier and more independent and active lives. While this appears to be the wave of the future for seniors, those who require extra help right now are less likely to use these devices and many prefer good old fashioned human care.
Number of Seniors Using Smart Technology in Canada
While the number of seniors using the internet has increased in recent years, this isn’t the case for smartphones or other connected devices. More than 76 per cent of Canadians own a smartphone, according to Statistics Canada, but this number drops significantly in the senior population, primarily for those over 75. Only 18 per cent of Canadians over 75 own a connected device.
The trend continues when it comes to those who believe that smart technology has or can improve their lives. Only 38 per cent of Canadians over 75 believe their lives are better or report improvement because of smart technology.
Smart Technologies vs In-Home Care
There’s no doubt that some smart technology can help make life easier for seniors, especially those who live alone. Technology that monitors the comfort, safety and security of home or wearables that can alert emergency services to a fall or medical emergency can provide peace of mind not only for the elderly but also their loved ones.
Many of the other smart technology devices available are likely to be a hard sell for seniors who are not tech-savvy or are Healthy Living on a limited income. Trusting a device to take the place of human care is also something that many seniors are not comfortable with.
The cost of some of these devices and the monitoring to use them can be expensive. And even with online tutorials and detailed manuals, there’s always the worry that the user will have difficulty using the features properly or to their full potential. This is especially the case for those cognitive issues that accompany ageing and illness.
In-home care services can help seniors age with dignity and independence in the comfort of home. Medication reminders, regular visits, errands, and transportation are just some of the in-home care services we offer.
This isn’t to say that some of the available technology isn’t worth considering, of course. Smartphones or tablets that allow seniors to stay connected with friends and loved ones who live far away or when mobility is an issue are wonderful. Fitness trackers that remind you to get up and move around are great for those who are able to do so safely on their own.
As amazing as these technologies are, it’s comforting to know that the human connection is still available for seniors who need or simply prefer assistance from a real, live human who has been trained to provide care and companionship.
Pauline Lyons, CPCA
Director of Community Relations
Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care