Art Aiello is a writer and editor based in Waukesha, WI.
Living independently for as long as possible is an important goal for many seniors. It’s a concept known as “aging in place,” According to the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC), as many as 90% of all seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes rather than move into senior housing or make other accommodations. Fortunately, there are many ways they can accomplish this with a little help from their friends, family and caregivers — and several gadgets that help mitigate risk and improve safety.
With regard to housing, the NAIPC recommends evaluating your long-term comfort in your home. This includes its size and your ability to maintain it, especially if it is large.
One important aspect to consider with regard to the “place” part of the aging-in-place is the reliability of your electric power. A power outage can lead to many difficulties for seniors living alone. Sump pumps can fail, leading to flooded basements. A sudden stop of heat and air conditioning, can be deadly depending upon the weather, and refrigerated medications can spoil, which can be equally life threatening. And darkness can turn an otherwise pleasant home into a minefield.
Fortunately, automatic home standby generators are designed to keep the power on for the duration of a power outage. They kick on in as little as 10 seconds, and can back up your entire home. Home standby generators typically run on natural gas or liquid propane, which your home likely already has as a power source for your furnace or other appliances. As such, they can run indefinitely, keeping the lights on, your home medical equipment were functioning and all of your appliances in regular working order. They can be pricey, but they provide peace of mind for seniors living on their own.
Today’s gadgets go beyond home medical equipment and can help ensure your health and safety within your home. For example, if you have limited mobility or chronic medical conditions, you have a higher risk of falling or finding yourself somewhere in your home where you are inadvertently incapacitated.
One way to ensure peace of mind is to invest in technology that makes it easy to call for assistance if necessary. While they’ve become something of a punch line ever since the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial in the late 1980’s, medical alert systems are valuable to have in an emergency. While many vendors are available, the systems essentially function the same, You wear a pendant somewhere on your body that connects to a base station, and when activated it sends a signal alerting someone you need assistance. Such devices are a great way to mitigate the risks, and new product offerings give multiple styles and designs to choose from.
Many caregivers and seniors worry about forgetting to take their medication, accidentally doubling doses, or mistaking dosage altogether. To help avoid this, several companies have built upon the traditional pill dispenser and created sophisticated devices that keep medications in one place, organized by dosage, and remind you when you need to take them. From audible alarms to text and email notifications, these medication dispensers can often be configured in a variety of ways to notify you — and sometimes even your caregivers — of the need to take your medication in a timely manner.
It’s important to remember that you need not invest in every bright, shiny tool that’s available to be able to age in place. The NAIPC recommends you undertake a thorough planning process that evaluates your specific needs vis-à-vis housing, finances, health and your social wellbeing. Once that is done, you can seek out the right tools to help you age in place in peace and safety.
· The National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC): www.ageinplace.org
· The NAIPC Aging in Place Planning Guide: www.ageinplace.org/Portals/0/documents/ACTIII%20pdf.pdf
· Medical alert device comparison at Consumer Reports: www.consumerreports.org/cro/2014/06/what-to-look-for-in-a-medical-alert-system/index.htm
Home Standby Generators
Smart Pill Dispensers