The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted for the 32nd time in a row to repeal what is know referred to as Obamacare. While there isn’t any likelihood of the Democratic Senate following suit. Therefore, until the next election in November, it appears that this health care package at a nationwide level is seemingly lost in Symbolic Gestures and the Land of Swirling Rhetoric.
This might be ill-fated as it is a part of the countries future that is marked with negative realities. Just two years ago, over 40 million citizens aged 65 plus resided in the United States. By 2050, it is estimated that approx 88 million citizens will have reached that age – which will be 1 in 5 Americans.
Elsewhere, in certain European countries, the problem might be worse, with a significant percentage of the population on the wrong side of 60 or more. In Spain, for instance, an estimated 37% of the population will be at that age. While in Japan, it might well be higher at 43%. It is without question that a significant number of people across the world are going to require some form of help in later life.
Due to this, a great push is being made to see if technology can be used to handle this potential problem – from complete helper robots to wearable sensors. Let’s look at ten high-tech tools that might benefit the older generation and keep them out of nursing homes in their final years:
Research at the University of Missouri is testing the possibility of using Kinect motion sensors – similar to what is used with the Xbox games console – to help with monitoring the elderly at long distances. The use of this technology is seen as a lot less intrusive than a high-spec camera as with the Kinect sensors; the image is limited to a silhouetted image. At the moment, this type of system is already in place in living facilities close to the Missouri campus. After receiving a grant, the scientists at the University can test its potential at keeping in contact with older adults in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
These wireless sensors are designed to attach to the chest and monitor a variety of bodily functions, such as the heartbeat, surface temperature, movements, and stress levels, which in time will become a standard feature for monitoring the elderly. All data recorded is kept in a home recorder system and readable on a PC or mobile phone.
An invention that is coming from Japan is the bed that changes into a wheelchair. Panasonic is creating this device to assist the elderly in becoming more mobile without having actually to get out of bed. Not stopping there, Panasonic has also designed a robot able to shampoo and blow-dry hair.
You wouldn’t expect the older adult to do much cycling on the roads, but for those using a static bike, most will soon get quite bored. Research in Schenectady, NY, discovered that seniors were much more likely to have an interest in static cycling if virtual scenery was added to the equation, such as realistic images of California or France, as this fake background was able to keep the brain sharper.
This device, which is a pendant to wear around the neck or drop in a pocket, offers an effective way to protect people by giving 24-hours access to a nurse or similar assistant. It’s equipped with an emergency call button that provides a direct connection to a monitoring center, or if a non-emergency situation arises, it is possible to connect with a nurse triage call center. A further feature is the ability to detect if the wearer has a tumble – this will send an automatic alert to the nurse center. If no response is received from the person wearing the pendant, a call to the emergency services is made.
Robots and Helper People
A California robotics company, named Willow Garage, is looking at the possibility of having a human worker remotely use a robot to care for the elderly. Known as the Heaphy Project, the basic principle is to have a person control a robot from a remote location using a standard web browser. An example of its use – if the older adult was to let something drop on the floor, the operator of the robot, who could be on the other side of the country, could see what just happened via a video feed and can guide the machine to collect the dropped item.
Medical Assistant Smartphone
A specially designed smartphone, known as the LifeWatch V, is built to help a doctor understand a patient’s well-being between check-ups. Equipped with sensors, a patient can press on a finger on the phone to provide an electrocardiogram reading, which supplies heart rate, temperature, body fat, and stress levels. A product of this nature is also effective at helping people with diabetes monitor blood sugar levels. All data is stored in the cloud and passed on to a doctor’s surgery.
Robot Exercise Instructor
Taizo, the robot, with his 30 moves, is designed to teach seniors a variety of basic stretching techniques and light exercise. This little humanoid bot was created by the General Robotix Company, which is based in Japan.
The Kabocha, a talking robot, has become a great hit with the elderly population in Japan ever since its release in late 2011. It styled in the shape of the 3-year old child, which can talk 400-phrases, respond to movement, sound, and light and never get annoyed.
When someone discusses the potential of Google glasses, no one comments on its positive side for the older generation. But things can be made so much more comfortable in old age if a need to remember a place or name or similar is helped along with augmented reality.