New technology allows seniors to maintain independence

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- Seniors want independence and new technology is allowing them to live at home longer than ever before.

There are almost 40 million Americans over the age of 65, and in five years that number is going to double.

That means one in five people will be in their mid-60's. Those 85 and older will stand for 15 percent of the population.

Josie and Bernie Shelly are in their 80’s and have no plans of slowing down.

But an accident at home frightens them both.

"I think that's always on your mind, if you was to fall and one or the other wasn't there,” said Josie

One in three people over the age of 65 fall each year, but new technology is now keeping a watchful eye on our aging population.

"We are doing research to find things to keep older adults in their home longer,” said Debra Krotish, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Senior Smart at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine in Columbia.

There are now four exciting new ways technology is allowing seniors to live at home with more peace of mind.

A vibration detector can be placed on the floor to detect if a person has fallen.

These motion detectors track a person's movement. Family members or friends can track the movement or non-movement from their computers, without being too intrusive.

"If you put them by the bedside or by the bathroom door, you know that mom has gotten up in the middle of the night," said Krotish

New research shows 30 percent of people who end up in nursing homes do so because they couldn't manage their medication.

Well pill dispensers have come a long way from a box with pills divided by day to a device that allows a caregiver to load several days' worth of medicine. The machine is also coded to deliver the right amount at the right time.

New blood pressure cuffs and scales send data by Bluetooth to an online system family members and caregivers can access.

Four ways to keep seniors safe and active while at home.

No single private insurance plan or public program pays for all types of assistive technology.

Medicare pays for up to 80 percent of the cost of what it calls durable medical equipment.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers more extensive financial assistance for veterans needing assistance.

REPORT #2091

BACKGROUND: Thanks to advanced medical care and increasing life expectancies, many more Americans are growing older. According to the United States Census Bureau, 7.5 million senior women and 2.6 million senior men live alone. While living alone can offer individuals a sense of independence, there are many challenges these seniors face. For example, one major concern is their security and safety. Another concern is falls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death among the elderly. One in three adults aged 65 and older fall every year. Another concern for seniors living on their own is medication errors. It can be difficult juggling a schedule of different drugs. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2008 revealed more deaths from medication errors occurred at home than in hospitals, from January 1983 through December 2004. (Source:
TECHNOLOGY: A WATCHFUL EYE: New home automation technologies are allowing seniors to remain in their own home longer while improving their safety. Such technologies can range from computer controlled network interfaces to monitoring devices like lighting, motion sensors, environmental controls, video cameras, automated timers, emergency assistance programs and alerts. Also, vibration detectors can be placed on the surface of a floor to detect if a person has fallen and notify caregivers. Motion detectors track a person's movement. Prices range from $200 to $2,000. (Source:
AUTOMATIC PILL DISPENSER: New research shows 30 percent of people who end up in nursing homes do so because they couldn't manage their medication. New technology to help cope with this incidence is an automatic medication dispenser, like the MD2 Reminder System. A caregiver can load several days of medication in and the machine is coded to deliver the right amount at the right time. Some can even be locked to prevent people with dementia from taking the wrong medicine at the wrong time. If a dosage is missed, caregivers are contacted. Prices for these types of dispensers can range from $59 to $75. (Source:

For More Information, Contact:
Matt Splett
Director of Marketing and Communications
The University of South Carolina School of Medicine

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