MIT AgeLab is conducting a series of surveys to understand changes in public attitudes and behaviors toward smart technologies. As they noted, “The pandemic has served as a propellant accelerating the adoption of devices and related services perhaps a decade faster than might have otherwise occurred.”

Home delivery is now a necessity. Video chat is for anyone. Telemedicine finally took off.

I had the pleasure to interview Shaun Mitra as part of our Caregiver Smile Summit. Shaun is CEO of BrioCare, a technology app to help caregivers and older adults by leveraging smart-home technology.

Why So Popular Now?

Shaun notes that there is “a lot of stress, strain and anxiety associated with caregiving and most caregivers are looking for peace of mind.

He goes on to say: “I personally feel that some of these new voice interfaces through smart speakers like Alexa Amazon, Google Home, and Samsung Bixby can really help bridge and connect caregivers with their seniors. And for seniors, they become a digital companion.”

Shaun notes that before now, seniors found it very cumbersome to interact with technology. But now, you just speak to these smart speakers to make things happen. I personally can relate. Amazon can open my garage, turn on my lights, and my wife’s favorite,s turn on the coffee pot in the morning.

Senior isolation, exacerbated by Covid, has also accelerated the use of technology as well as the willingness for people to want to learn and embrace it.

Covid has also created and accelerated a move from senior living to aging in place. Technology is essential for successful aging in place and it is becoming more and more affordable.

Versatility and Endless Possibilities

As a caregiver, you can pre-program various types of reminders – family event dates, doctor appointments, etc. You can program music to be played. You can schedule important messages so that a loved one remembers to take medications, turn off the stove, etc.

Shaun’s BrioCare allows you to record a message in your own voice and when a loved one turns it on, it is waiting. What a great thing when you have grandkids who can send a message just by following a link generated from the app.

A person with a smart device can reach out to family members as well and of course emergency services as needed.

Medication Adherence Important

Studies have shown that approximately 50% of patients do not take their chronic medications as prescribed. Nonadherence can include delaying or not filling a prescription, skipping doses, splitting pills, or stopping a medication early. This leads to poorer health outcomes for patients.

Shaun believes the ability to automate medication reminders is one of the best features of these technologies. A caregiver can program an app to remind the older person of their medication. Or a person can tell the device to remind them, as I sometimes do when I ask Alexa to remind me to take my cholesterol medicine at bedtime.

You can add the small little nuances about taking these medications, like taking before, with or after meals, how many times a day, etc. With many of these apps, caregivers get a daily report on what is taking place.

A loved one can report their compliance. There are also emerging technologies that integrate pill dispensers with these devices.

Increased Independence

“Our mission is to help seniors lead a much more independent, active and purposeful life,” says Shaun. To that end, we are all probably familiar with how smart speakers make smart homes, which make life easier and safer for families.

Set up lights for home automation; program your thermostats; see who is at the front door. Fire TV Cube allows any Smart TV to become Alexa compatible. Smart speakers can consolidate multiple apps into one device by enabling skills and using apps that integrate with them.

If you have a smart speaker with a screen, the possibilities increase. The Echo Show in my kitchen brings up recipes I can read and watch. I can watch the latest news reports not just listen to them.

There are hundreds of thousands of skills that integrate. However, it is not always easy for the older person to figure it all out. That is why Shaun and other entrepreneurs have created companion apps to make it easy.

The Future

As mentioned earlier, a migration toward video will be one trend continuing. Appliances are becoming integrated and your refrigerator can tell you what you need, send a shopping list to the supermarket, and have everything delivered.

Telemedicine has increased by necessity but will continue to grow. More of these devices will be HIPAA compliant to protect your privacy and your healthcare information.

People are able to do joint cooking, read books to the grandkids, learn new skills. Heck, I am talking to people about embedding our Senior Entertainment/Education Network in these devices.

As the Forbes article noted, “High-tech is not a substitute for high-touch. The help of a virtual home assistant does not provide the same warmth of a loved one’s visit. Likewise, the efficient delivery of a meal kit is not the same as a home-cooked meal delivered by a smiling neighbor.”

Have you embraced smart technology for yourself? Are you using it with a loved one? Which devices have you tried so far? Do you have favorite apps that you use the most?

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