Expertise making it attainable for seniors to age in place | State and Regional

CHICAGO – Mel Washburn is a former firefighter, professor and litigation lawyer. Whether or not combating fires in a constructing, a classroom, or the courtroom, he realized as soon as he retired that 90% of his social life had revolved round work.

Washburn, 77, knew he wanted to discover a method to construct a social community in retirement. Washburn additionally knew that he and his spouse, Pam, 75, needed to proceed residing independently in their very own house.

He shortly realized that know-how may play a significant position in engaging in each objectives.

Early members of The Village Chicago, a membership-based group whose goal is to attach and enhance the standard of lifetime of Chicagoans over 50, the Washburns now socialize by means of each in-person and Zoom occasions. They usually depend on know-how to keep up a protected surroundings at house.

The Washburns are a part of a rising demographic. The World Well being Group estimates that by 2050 greater than 2 billion folks will probably be 60 and older. America can be altering. In accordance with Rodney Harrell, vice chairman of household, house and neighborhood for AARP, “In 2034, we can have extra people over 50 than underneath 18 for the primary time.” Illinois, the place 16.6% of oldsters are 65 and older, is not any exception.


Mel Washburn works on his laptop at house on Sept. 7, 2022.

“A overwhelming majority of oldsters wish to keep of their house as they age,” Harrell mentioned. And know-how, more and more, is making that attainable, from touchless taps to voice-controlled lights.

Nonetheless, as Harrell factors out, just one% of houses have options that people must age in place.

Felice Eckhouse, founding father of Elderspaces, a Chicago enterprise that helps shoppers design and modify houses in order that they’ll age in place, attributes this hole to designs that haven’t tailored a lot since World Warfare II. “It’s a ying yang that’s out of whack. We’d like an area we’re not retrofitting earlier than you will get to the devices,” Eckhouse mentioned.

However Harrell sees potential for know-how to bridge a few of this hole. “What we (at AARP) concentrate on are the adjustments that may be made within the house no matter medical situations. Expertise can’t do all the pieces however performs an incredible position,” he mentioned.

Even within the house, Eckhouse mentioned, “The smartphone is the driving force behind quite a lot of digital assets, from listening to aids to safety techniques, lighting techniques, door entry, to home equipment within the kitchen.”

Smartphones additionally supply primary assist with on a regular basis duties and communication.

“I nonetheless use know-how in all the conventional methods. If I must lookup one thing, I look it up on-line,” Mel Washburn mentioned. “I’d have a extreme case of boredom with out my cellphone: information, books, calling folks.”

His spouse, Pam, who lives with a number of sclerosis, depends closely on her smartphone as a each day communication software.

Getting began

Figuring out tech options for people who dwell in an ill-suited house might really feel like a chicken-and-egg downside. It is because quite a lot of know-how calls for high-speed web, which isn’t common, notes Laurie Orlov, principal analyst for Growing old and Well being Expertise Watch, an business analysis agency.

As soon as web service is place, nonetheless, Orlov mentioned an unlimited vary of choices, similar to voice-based applied sciences, motion-detecting cameras and sensors can be utilized “for predictive analytics to establish a possible downside and make the world as protected as attainable.”

However not everyone seems to be tech savvy.


Mel Washburn appears over his schedule on his laptop at house on Sept. 7, 2022.

Mel Washburn remembers dictaphones and secretary swimming pools, however he additionally skilled evolving know-how over 28 years as a accomplice in a big regulation agency. Not everyone seems to be as snug embracing new gadgets.

Orlov disputes the widespread false impression that child boomers are extra comfortable with know-how than their earlier era. Though they develop some consolation, child boomers wish to hold what they’ve, whereas the tech business forces change. Telephones are a major instance.

“Most individuals aren’t updating their telephones as quick because the updates are coming,” Orlov mentioned. Ultimately, this results in disabled, older gadgets, like telephones that labored on 3G networks however not run on 5G. Consequently, “Child boomers will probably be simply as annoyed (because the era earlier than),” she mentioned.

Nobody-size-fits-all answer

Nonetheless, whether or not it’s free tablets by means of an Illinois Division of Growing old program or utilizing Zoom for The Village Chicago’s film membership, know-how can assist seniors growing old in place in a lot of alternative ways.

“Tech is usually a potential nice enhancer of the options in houses and handle a few of the gaps,” Harrell mentioned. Tech doesn’t finish with touchless taps, exercise displays and voice-controlled lights to handle low-vision points and stop falls. “There’s a burgeoning tech in sensors that perceive behaviors, similar to when somebody has gotten off the bed,” Harrell mentioned.

Even Alexa can be utilized for greater than turning on lights, notes Jim Rosenthal, CEO of, a free info useful resource for seniors and their households. “It may be taken a lot farther to cameras, microphones and the flexibility to see all the pieces that’s happening to know {that a} mum or dad is okay.”

Expertise doesn’t need to be difficult, both. Patricia Greenberg, proprietor of The Health Gourmand and writer of the e-book “Eat Properly, Dwell Properly, Age Properly,” mentioned she loves apps like Noom and MyFitnessPal that assist seniors monitor their private diet and train routines. These are merely one other means know-how can assist seniors preserve wholesome, unbiased lives.

Discovering solutions

Sorting by means of all the apps and applied sciences accessible will be dizzying, however organizations like Village Chicago can assist. And assets like AARP, and the Illinois Assistive Expertise Program, which offers free info and assist with know-how, supply crucial info. For Illinois residents, the Illinois Division of Growing old affords a senior assist line (1-800-252-8966).

Amy Lulich, senior coverage adviser on the Illinois Division of Growing old, says, “This assist line shouldn’t be solely the place somebody can get an evaluation of what they may must proceed residing of their house, but additionally study what help they could be eligible to obtain.”

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This would possibly embody Illinois Care Connections, which offers free iPads, tablets and Wi-Fi sizzling spots for qualifying people, by means of the Illinois Assistive Expertise Program. The IATP additionally runs different packages and demonstrations of assisted know-how. As a result of public packages just like the assistive know-how program could also be restricted in who they’ll serve, the Illinois Senior Assist Line is a helpful place to begin.

What works for one particular person might not work for an additional. In some instances, “know-how isn’t at all times the most effective answer,” mentioned Rosenthal, of

“The issue we face now,” in keeping with Willie Gunther, IATP’s government director, “is that seniors have to be educated on what’s attainable and as quickly as attainable earlier than it turns into an emergency.”

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