Technology helps seniors retain independence -- and privacy

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- As the baby boomer generation ages, the older American population continues to grow. An AARP survey found that 90% of senior citizens want to stay in their home as long as possible, which can be really hard on families who worry about their aging relatives -- but technology is changing that.

Dr. Marianne Marcus, 84, knows she's getting older, but she's not ready to be treated like it.

"I want to live in my own home in an independent apartment with my husband," said Marcus.

She wants to feel safe, and she doesn't want her kids to worry about her -- and she certainly doesn't want web cameras monitoring her either.

"Web cameras are not a good thing," she said.

UT Health associate professor at the School of Nursing Dr. Jing Wang and AT&T's Foundry of Connected Health head of innovation Nadia Morris are working to help families monitor their aging relatives without the use of cameras.

"Right now, we have a lot of mobile technologies that keep seniors at home in their environment, but also connect them with their family members and with their providers," said Dr. Wang.

Smart phone apps like Lose It and My Fitness Pal help monitor food intake and activity, and other apps measure their blood sugar levels.

"There is learning curve in the beginning, but once they get past that, they actually love it," said Wang.

Morris said there are also updated fall detection devices on the market, many of which are connected to cellular networks.

Doctors also now recommend using health health monitoring platforms.

"They get this kit, it's got a tablet and a suite of medical devices. It tracks blood pressure, weight, glucose levels and oxygen levels in your blood," said Morris. "Those devices sync to the tablet, the tablet is synced to a cloud service where a care team can analyze that data."

What Morris and her team are most excited about is sensory tracking. Sensors can be placed anywhere in the home to track activity .

"If somebody hasn't opened or closed their fridge for one or two days, it sends a message to someone in their family, let them know that mom or dad might need to be checked up on," Morris added.

Marcus said she can live with these types of technology, especially if that means living on her own.

"I felt that I could use them., and I felt comfortable with the doctor seeing the results," said Marcus.

The team over at the AT&T Foundry of Connected Health is also working on fall prediction technology. Sensors will notice changes in a person's gait and notify the family if there is threat of a fall.
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