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PERS device for mobile seniors -- or cell phone in the pocket? Go with the phone

So let's say you live in an isolated location, leave the house to go out to a garage or walk the dog, how useful is a PERS pendant or watch? I am not impressed with how forthcoming PERS vendors are with little details like how far from the base station the wearer can travel. Here's the big player, Philips Lifeline: "Works from anywhere in or around the home, including basement, garage and yard. [Note: Range may vary due to construction of your home and distance from the Lifeline Telephone or Basic Unit.]."  So what is that range, anyway? Not stated.

So let's talk about Life Alert -- at 150 feet, you may or may not be able to hear the operator when you press the button, and the button (this revealed by calling the company) works up to 150 feet away. Hmm. Not great if you walk the dog or walk to the corner of a one-acre lot.  Visonic's Amber (sold through many resellers, including SmartHome owner's manual of the product, refers to it as 'some distance'. So what if you walk around an independent or assisted living campus and get out to edge of the parking lot?

So let's compare that to a cell phone that enables you to call for help on the phone -- or with a tracking service -- be located by others if disoriented or confused, and with phone navigation for driving or walking to the store. This is the right device to take out of the house -- agreed?




Is cell a better option for personal emergency assistance? No and yes. Most people who benefit from using a personal emergency response product at home tend to be older seniors at risk or perhaps younger people with mobility problems who if they fall, need immediate assistance. Both types of users tend to spend most of their days in and around the home and more often than not, alone. PERS company's (I used to work for one) tend to not encourage a higher risk user to venture to far from the house as they may be difficult to find in the event of an emergency (out in a field, forest, down the road etc). The important consideration is the performance of the RF pendant to communicate with the base station in the home and the quality of the call center to manage and dispatch emergency resources. When a PERS system is activated, the call goes to one number, an emergency call center operator who manages the call and dispatches resources if required. Philips Lifeline is the market leader in both technology and call center services.

Cell phones are great for those who are more mobile in and around the community and less medically at risk. Having the ability to track the signal via GPS is paramount as a dazed and confused individual will have difficulty explaining their location. Also, the user of the cell phone should pre-program the emergency phone number where the call will be answered, (like a professional monitoring company) otherwise they will be calling friend's and family who may not be available to take the call and who may not know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Rob Howlett

The cell phone with GPS, Dial Tone, Speed Dial, incoming calling, notifications and time tracking would be much more valuable in most cases. The only problem is that many folks forget to take the cell phone with them or carry it with them at all times. The battery life is ususlly much less than a PERS. My mother losses the PERS device in her purse and would do the same with a cell phone. The watch is a constant she has worn her whole life. She seldom forgets it.

I agree that the cell phone is the best option. Just remember that everyone does not fit into one option.

Seems like the real solution to this would be combining the PERS technology with GPS. I have folks that have asked me about the ability to use that type of technology. One in particular lives in a rural area, and gets around town as well as out to his farm periodically. A PERS device will not work for that.

He had heard of a GPS type PERS device, and gave me information. Unfortunately, either he mis-understood or the information that they gave him was mis-leading as I cannot find such a device. If it is out there, let us know!

Ron Elick

Hello Ron,

GPS PERS devices are no being introduced to monitoring centers in the US. There are several types hardware which use AT&T or T Mobile networks complemented by modern gps technology.

Specialized devices ae very simple sell phones. They have Two Way voice, GPS and SOS button. They report to the care provider in the monitoring center.

Next is modern smart phones which provides the SOS functions plus all features of modern technology.

I will introduce you or your friend if you are still interested.

Rik Warren

I was reading this blog about PERS vs cell phone. Interesting. I think one needs to step back a minute and realize that any active senior that is out and about often would probably benefit in many ways with a cell phone. However, there are many drawbacks to cellphones. They need to be charged every few days. When they are in the charger - they are not on the person. They are not water-proof - so can't be taken into the shower. They are considerably bigger than your typical PERS pendant. And sometimes, they don't work well in buildings.

Your typical PERS is really for someone who is a little more 'home bound' and living alone - and at risk. When a senior has a fall or other issue - getting help quickly is the name of the game. Clearly range is important - but more important then 'raw range' from the pendant is the range that one can be away from the base station and communicate the nature of the call. If one pushed the button in the bathroom - but can't yell loud enough to be heard by the base station in the kitchen - much time is wasted until someone may eventually come. And maybe its the police that comes - and not the needed ambulance.

LogicMark makes a series of two-way voice pendant PERS systems which allow the senior to speak directly through the pendant to 911, a friend, neighbor or central station - guaranteeing that the nature of the call is clearly and quickly communicated - and that the right actions are taken. One can be in a 5,000 sq ft house and push the button outside in the yard - and still communicate to 911, the friend, neighbor or central station. We believe this will be the trend of the future. Mark.

Within 10 years, PERS will integrate with cell phones. Until then, older people (many of whom don't leave the house alone) wont bother with cell phones because they are too small and fiddly, they need to be recharged and they aren't marketed at anyone over 50. So PERS will develop into smart telecare systems that will call for help without anyone pressing the button, because sensors will have detected a problem and will be telling the monitoring centre exactly what's needed. The response will therefore be a plumber for the leak and flood, the police for a break-in, and a special lifting service for someone who's had a fall. Come across to the UK and see how this is already working in the homes of over 100,000 older vulnerable people. The secret is assessment - making sure that people get the system that they need, and ensuring that there is a local or regional service provider who can organise the service, including the response, as efficiently as possible.
The cell phone companies claim that the UK market is saturated, and that this means that everyone already has a cell phone. Fewer than 10% of people aged over 85 has a cell phone, but they all have a landline and can therefore make use of PERS.

Landline PERS are not useful for a generation of active and mobile seniors. Here's a link to an interesting mobile PERS technology: http://www.medicalintelligence.ca/en/products/index.html

Hopefully end-user service providers will adopt this technology in the near future.

While I would agree that seniors are mobile and more active than years past. The landline PERS is still and will always remain important. Falls at home remain the number one cause of serious hospital visits among seniors. Senior Medical Alert Systems

Aging in place technology has come a long way over the last 20 years. Seniors living at home alone,and facing stability challenges now have a vast array of Help options. I have come across a very good link for those in need for themselves or for a Loved one, medstartech.com

Keeping it simple is the key to effective use of many medical alert systems on the market today. If the PERS system has too many buttons,features or is complicated it simple won't get used and thus defeats the purpose of having one. Most seniors who use medical alert systems do not go outside of the home too often without a caregiver or family thus only a small fraction of them would benefit from a GPS receiver. Until the GPS transmitters come down in price and physical size they will continue to lag in sales behind the typical PERS unit.

While not all seniors need a PERS, having concise, detailed medical history which is quickly attainable by paramedics in the event of an emergency should be a top priority for all seniors living alone. The solution is simple yet rarely put into practice. Senior LifeSaver Kit contains everything you need to make sure you or a loved receive proper care quickly should an emergency arise.

Good point about the functionality of the product.
Have you seen the sonamba yet? It may strike your fancy...and it may not. Seems like a big step in the right direction...

Excellent article. You've shared great tips about medical alarm systems. Thank you!

You make really great points here. One of the previous comments was "within 10 year PERS will be integrated with the cell phone". And it has! Check out GreatCall's 5Star Urgent Response- operates nationwide, great cell network coverage, can download the app on iPhone, add to the Jitterbug, or even use their mPERS device- the one button 5Star Responder. GPS enabeled, you can sign-in online and locate the user on a Google map. It's perfect for the mobile senior, kids or anyone looking for personal security. I bought one for my nephew, who isn't quite cell phone age yet. I love that I can check in on him, make sure he got to school, or is at the park with friends.

Clients come to us when they want something different. (A unique solution) We like to try new things and we’re not afraid of big ideas. Creating visuals is a process that we are constantly exploring and redefining. We believe we have the most advanced RF/GPS/Cellular solution available globally. And we are currently seeking partners with whom we can together profit from the cooperation. (Vega) (Urgentys) provides optimum protection, anywhere in the world. The Everon Vega RF-Base Station/A-GPS/Cellular Watch comes with features
Such as indoor/outdoor safe zones, wireless charging, security-proof, lockable
Security band, waterproof up to 3ft for 30 mins, 2 way calling and SOS
Panic alert which can be integrated into an optional 24 x7 certified monitoring emergency call center.
The Vega/Urgentys device has the following features:

• Advanced technology includes assisted GPS and GSM positioning
• Optional emergency button function
• Hands-free two-way voice communication
• Water proof for continuous wearing
• Secured bracelet to reduce the chances of the device being removed
• Long-lasting rechargeable battery
• Unique cordless battery charging whilst being worn
• Color display indicating GPS and GSM signal, battery status and time

Watch the video below to find out how the Vega GPS bracelet works:

The PERS unit ensures the coverage of the home (the exact range should be validated during the installation of the service), in some case the GPRS is not available on site and the autonomy is a big issue.
But seniors are more and more mobile and a combined service (PERS inside + MPERS outside) is a perfect combination.
That's why we selected a no frills option included a smartphone app that the user can download on his mobile phone (Iphone or Androïd).
I think there is a real need for optimized solutions taking the advantages of both at a reasonable price