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Home monitoring studies analysis -- boomers need to try harder to learn about what exists

I admit that I am a bit of a nerd; I find survey data very interesting. It’s especially intriguing when it exposes trends that are both counterintuitive and actionable. So it is with two studies that I tackle the questions of senior and caregiver readiness to use home monitoring technology that can help seniors age in place and stay in their homes longer.

The first study is the 2008 AARP Healthy@Home survey of 907 seniors age 65+ and 1,023 family caregivers. The core questions that were addressed in the study:

  • Are older adults and caregivers aware of technology that could help them meet goals of remaining independent?

  • Would they be willing to use technology?

  • Is technology perceived as something that will invade their privacy or give them more time and greater peace of mind?

  • And is technology seen as being affordable or beyond their means?

Keep in mind that in the older adults survey population, 52% of respondents acknowledged that they were managing two chronic health conditions.

Let’s look first at the viewpoint of the 65+ population about home monitoring. Here are just a few details: 56% of respondents said they would be willing to use an activity monitor, although only 36% were aware that they are available. Activity monitors were defined as an “electronic device that lets someone who lives outside your home know if you are okay, or if your daily routine changes.” This meets my definition of home monitoring. The study also found that widowed people are more likely to want to use home monitoring than married people (71% versus 49%).

Now onto caregivers: 62% were willing to use home monitoring, although only 19% knew of any (as compared to 36% of seniors). Both seniors and caregivers agreed (more than 80% of each group) that home safety devices, including monitors, would be an enabler of feeling safer and having more peace of mind. Both parties worried that the offerings would cost too much to install and maintain—although we must remember that the majority of both groups were not aware of the existence of these products.

Now, over to the Clarity 2007 Aging in Place Survey of 402 seniors (age 65+) and 402 baby boomers (ages 43–61) who had at least one aging parent still living. None of the seniors lived in assisted living or nursing homes. This survey is quite revealing with regard to how seniors view risk of dependency and their relationship with their children. Eighty-nine percent of senior respondents said that aging in place is very important, but 53% were concerned about their ability to do so. Fifty-five percent did not receive assistance with transportation, household, health care or finances from their children or caregivers. Seventy-five percent believed their children were “involved enough” in their lives and the same percentage of children believed themselves to be involved enough in their parents’ lives.

And here comes the kicker: 65% of seniors were open to or would like to use new technology and 54% said they would consider sensors to monitor their health and safety. Half of baby boomers thought there were technology products aimed at meeting the needs of seniors, including sensors, but only 14% had actually looked for any.

Both these studies send the same loud and clear messages:

  1. Seniors want to age in place in their own homes.

  2. They are worried about their ability to do so.

  3. They are open to some sort of monitoring technology.

  4. Neither seniors nor their caregivers are aware of or looking for this technology.

  5. And neither group wants more involvement from the other than exists.

I could slice and dice this data into more sub-group distinctions, but given the above conclusions, I think I have sledge-hammered my point.

So let’s start combing the Internet for technology that can help our parents stay in their homes even a little longer, and let’s not expect our aging parents to buy services like these on their own. If your parent is widowed and has two or more conditions that jeopardize his or her feeling of safety (or your peace of mind), start this search now. Hopefully siblings and other family members will split the costs of these aging in place technologies and services, rather than expecting one person to shoulder the cost.

To get you started, here are four vendor sites to check into: Xanboo, alarm.com, Monitronics and ADT. Look for marketing information on these sites that indicate an understanding of why and how monitoring for seniors can help. It is always good to spend a few minutes on the Center for Aging Services Technology (CAST) clearinghouse Web site to scan for new pilots and read up on plentiful university-based research. If you know of a great product that isn’t mentioned here, let me know!


First posted in GilbertGuide (www.gilbertguide.com).


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