Intelligent Underwear, Smart Shoes, and Other Amazing Innovations for Seniors

For many Americans today, later life provides an opportunity to re-imagine possibilities, learn new skills, and take on new challenges. To address a generation that has challenged conventional wisdom, a major focus at the recent American Society on Aging (ASA) “Aging in America” conference was on how technology is contributing to greater independence, expanded personal connections, and healthier lifestyles for seniors.

As the number of professional and family caregivers is dwindling, technology can mitigate costs while allowing people to stay active and live independently longer. New possibilities, including the option to plug into healthcare information from home, track symptoms, and access therapy remotely, are making it easier for older adults who are living life more independently.

At the ASA conference, Gail Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Families, told participants that “the entrepreneurial community has finally woken up to the aging demographic opportunity.” Below are some examples of technological innovations that confirm this statement.

  • Personal airbags for fall protection: ActiveProtective created smart garments, which are underwear that contain 3-D motion sensors to detect falls. If someone’s activity deviates from the norm, indicating a fall, a micro-airbag deploys from the underwear to protect the wearer from injury. The garment also issues a call for help.
  • UTI detecting briefs: Pixie Scientific, the company that developed smart diapers for infants, is now catering to an older audience. Their disposable briefs for seniors contain an indicator panel on the front that screens for urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and monitors hydration. This product is particularly helpful when it comes to identifying conditions before symptoms occur, so treatment can begin early. To screen for UTI’s or dehydration, the senior wearing the disposable brief or his or her caregiver can scan the code on the front of the undergarment with a smartphone, receiving data in less than 10 seconds. If the indicator panel senses a health problem, the person scanning the code is alerted. It takes only one disposable undergarment a day to collect data.
  • Smart pill bottle: AdhereTech has created smart pill bottles that send real-time alerts to seniors when it is time for them to take their pills. For example, when someone is supposed to take his or her medicine, the bottle glows blue. If it isn’t opened, it turns red and begins to beep. AdhereTech’s system also issues reminders via text message or phone call.
  • Remote physical therapy software: Reflexion Health makes physical therapy more effective for patients and more measurable for clinicians. It pairs Kinect for Windows sensor technology with its proprietary software to deliver an interactive solution that helps patients and physicians improve physical therapy results. Patients often receive individual sessions from physical therapists, but do much of their rehab alone, only guided by papers with stick figures that illustrate how to perform the prescribed exercises. This new technology delivers customized therapy plans to help these patients remotely.
  • Parkinson’s spoon: Liftlabs Design developed a special spoon to balance tremors, designed to help those with essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease eat independently. Sensors in the handle detect the tremor, then the spoon steadies the user’s hand.
  • Smart footwear: Plantiga invented Suspnd footwear that supply real-time data, with information on weight transfer, distribution, and other movement patterns. Data can be sent to various smartphone apps, and used for diagnostics, improving sports performance, in addition to other purposes. As Plantiga says on its website: “Bio-sensing from footwear enables better decisions for people who suffer musculoskeletal problems, diabetic neuropathy and plantar fasciitis, among other” conditions.
  • Specialized Mental Health Help: ThriveOn, an online and mobile service, offers counseling for people with mental health issues without long wait times, in-person interactions, or high fees. When you sign up, you take an assessment that examines your mood, stress, anxiety level, body image, and sleep habits. Then, you begin a personalized program that combines reading, interactive exercises, mood and behavior tracking, and weekly feedback from a ThriveOn coach.
  • Smart thermometer: Kinsa is a thermometer that integrates with your smartphone. It shows degree-by-degree rise in body temperature and it helps make sense of your symptoms. It taps into “health weather,” a database that considers, for example, if the flu or strep throat is affecting your community. You can show your phone to your doctor, and he or she will have instant access to the data Kinsa has collected.
  • Thermometer that reads vitals:  The Scanadu Scout measures temperature, heart rate and hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your blood, in 10 seconds. That information is then transmitted to your smartphone, so you can track and analyze your vitals.
  • Alzheimer’s test: The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE test) is an Alzheimer’s test that can be administered at home or in group settings (such as health fairs), and has proven to be reliable. Please read our blog post, “Do you have Alzheimer’s? There’s a new tool to help you check” for more details.

Most people want to stay in their home for as long as possible. However, if you or a loved one cannot live independently and are showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other alternatives. Broaching this subject with loved ones can be challenging. Please read our blog post, “When Dad is Resistant About Assisted Living” for more details on how to have a conversation with a loved one about long-term care options.

If, on the other hand, you or your loved one has a full life, a close neighborhood and community connections, and seems to be thriving, it’s worth exploring as many in-home care options as possible.

Whether the outcome is in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care in the future, it is always wise to plan ahead. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into assisted living or nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Learn more at http://www.VirginiaElderLaw.com and call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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