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Technology can help seniors stay in their homes and give their kids and caregivers peace of mind.
Smart homes can mean smart care for independent seniors.
Roughly two-thirds of Americans 55 and older want to age in their homes — and home care among seniors 68 and up accounted for 1.6 million houses held back from the market through 2018, according to Freddie Mac. The number of households in the 80-and-over age group will more than double by 2037, Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies says. The trends are clear: Boomers are aging in place, and technology can help them do it. And that means not moving to expensive care facilities.
Gerotech, as it’s sometimes known, has expanded to address a range of elder abilities and activity levels — and apps are the main way to access the technology. Some apps focus on minimal support and monitored independence, while others are designed for elders with limited mobility and more thorough home-care routines, for example. Here are a few of our recommendations for care-oriented apps for seniors.
SimpliSafe is CNET’s top pick for a great value home security system.
If you’re looking to make staying home an option for those aging in your care, start with retrofitting the home for the challenges of aging: decreased hand strength, fine motor control, eyesight and balance.
We recommend starting with the motion-sensitive SimpliSafe Home Security System. Its easy setup, affordability and reliable coverage earned SimpliSafe a rating of 8.5 out of 10 and a CNET Editors’ Choice. The cheapest package costs $229, but SimpliSafe’s customizable pricing allows seniors and caretakers to adjust their own security packages to individual needs. Our test system cost $465 and included a buffet of options. Beyond crime prevention, the app-alerting sensors watched for freezing temperatures, smoke, breaking glass and leaks. It also comes with a panic button.
While standalone emergency app Red Panic Button has been recommended elsewhere, its low review scores in both the App Store and Google Play Store suggest it may not be as reliable as app-linked personal emergency devices such as GreatCall. GreatCall uses GPS with a gyroscope to allow caretakers to track the whereabouts of the wearer, and receive alerts on their GreatCall Link mobile app (available for both Android and iOS) in the event of a fall or medical emergency.
On-site fall prevention can be boosted by heavily outfitting the home with motion-sensitive pathway lighting. Phillips Hue smart lights come with CNET’s recommendation for both indoor and outdoor use, although we’re also keeping an eye on Aladin’s smart lamp, a French upstart in motion-sensor home lighting with senior-focused design.
Personal safety isn’t limited to physical conditions in the home, however. Consumer Affairs reports indicate children and seniors are the demographics at greatest risk for identity theft. Elder fraud costs seniors more than $3 billion yearly, with the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimating an average theft of $34,200 per person.
Investing early in an identity theft monitoring plan can help protect seniors from becoming easy scam targets. When comparing services, consider one like IdentityForce that monitors more than just credit ratings, catching payday loan applications, changes in public records, neighborhood crime reports and new SSN usage.
The CFPB notes seniors are most commonly targeted via direct phone calls. Call filters are available from several wireless carriers to help screen shady solicitation. CNET’s 2019 run-down on fighting robocalls also includes third-party app options to help cut spam calls.
Keep an eye on bank activity by using a financial management app like Mint. While money management apps have evolved in complexity to accommodate the needs of competitive stock watchers and portfolio managers, Mint’s strength is in its simplicity and its attentiveness to user routines. With a bit of setup, its easy-to-use design can help seniors keep tabs on expenses and deposits, while issuing alerts when bills are due, if spending has exceeded your budget or if it detects suspicious spending.
Home telehealth is another expanding arena where caretakers have a leg up on previous generations. Among video chat apps, MDLive is among the best rated in the App Store with 4.7 stars from more than 18,000 ratings. Android users had less favorable ratings, where the app averaged just over 3 stars and nearly 900 ratings. The app provides 24/7 access to board-certified doctors and psychiatrists who average 15 years experience, with an urgent-care consultation cost of roughly $75, depending on insurance.
Lemonaid Health enjoys an even higher rating, and offers free delivery from Lemonaid Pharmacy. Among iOS users, the app holds a 4.9-star rating with 1,600 ratings. In the Google Play Store, around 1,300 users have weighed in to bring it to 4.7 stars. The app boasts a $25 consultation fee and an average wait time of 2 minutes during normal business hours. Patients also have the option of having prescriptions issued to nearby pharmacies for pickup.
The best-laid prescription plans can sometimes still go awry, though. Around half of prescriptions filled in the US each year are taken incorrectly, either via incorrect timing, frequency or duration, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Medication tracker app Medisafe (for Android and iOS) is a HIPAA-compliant assistant that reminds caregivers and patients of dosage times, and also checks for drug interactions. It also works with iCap, the Bluetooth-enabled pill bottle that lights up, recording a dose taken once the iCap bottle is opened.
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