Assistive technologies to help elderly seniors stay at home

Published 9:28am Friday, May 10, 2013

Dear Savvy Senior,

What types of new home technologies can you recommend to help me keep tabs on my elderly mother? She lives alone, about an hour’s drive from me, and I worry about her safety.

~ Concerned Daughter

Dear Concerned,

Helping an aging parent remain independent and living in their own home has become a little easier in recent years, thanks to a host of new and improved assistive technology products. Here are some top rated options you should know about.

Medical alerts

If you’re worrying about your mom falling and needing help, one of the most frequently used products over the years for seniors living alone is a medical alert device – also known as a personal emergency response system, or PERS.

These devices provide a wearable “SOS” button – typically in the form of a necklace pendent or bracelet – and a base station that connects to the home phone line.

At the press of a button, your mom could call and talk to a trained operator through the system’s base station receiver which works like a powerful speaker phone. The operator will find out what’s wrong, and will notify family members, a neighbor, friend or emergency services as needed.

If you’re interested in this, there are dozens of services to choose from including the Philips Lifeline (lifelinesys.com, 800-380-3111) which is the most widely used medical alert service in the U.S. and costs around $35 per month. Phillips also offers a new Auto Alert option (for $48 per month) that has fall detection sensors in the SOS button that can automatically summon help without your mom ever having to press a button. This is helpful because many seniors after a fall become confused or disoriented and forget to press the button.

If you’re interested in a more budget-friendly option, consider an unmonitored medical alert like the new VTech CareLine Home Safety Telephone System for $120 (vtechphones.com), which doesn’t require professional monitoring services, therefore has no monthly monitoring fees.

Or, to deal with falls or health emergencies that happen outside the home, there are mobile-alert GPS products now available that work anywhere. To find these, see GreatCall.com, MobileHelpNow.com and PhilipsLifelineGoSafe.com.

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