Innovations that Will Change Senior Living as We Know It

Older adult man looking at his iPad

What do virtual reality goggles, smart utensils and artificial intelligence have in common? Senior living, of course! 

While these inventions may seem far off, the future of senior living is already in the making. Senior living experts, engineers and psychologists are constantly creating new solutions for common obstacles that seniors face, such as isolation, accessibility and continuing to feel a sense of purpose in their later years.

What trends will we see in senior living in 2019? Here are just a few predictions. 

Virtual Reality 
In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has seen plenty of media attention. However, outside of video gaming, industries have struggled to find a way to use this innovative technology.

But we found out firsthand how VR for older adults could make a huge impact.

Last year, we worked with Rendever, a tech company specializing in virtual reality for older adults. Residents at one of our communities outside of Boston tried out these high-tech goggles, and the reception of this technology was incredible. Using programs like Google Earth, residents were virtually transported to nostalgic locations such as their childhood homes and hometowns. Some residents were even moved to tears. Aside from its ability to transport residents to remote locations they would otherwise never visit, it can also be a fun way for friends, family and other residents to bond with seniors.

Smarter Living
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is changing the way we live. Intelligent inventions like smart TVs and Roomba are already commonplace in senior living homes. But prepare yourself for even smarter devices this year, ones made with seniors in mind.

Like smart forks and spoons. They may sound silly at first, but AI-powered cutlery could make a huge difference for seniors. Liftware is a tech company specializing in forks and spoons designed specifically for those with hand tremors or limited mobility. These smart utensils monitor the users’ movement and compensate for tremors and limited motion, empowering those with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s to feed themselves.

If you think that’s smart, how about entire smart apartments? Pacific Retirement Services in Oregon has created an unprecedented “living laboratory,” an experimental senior community where wireless motion sensors are used to monitor apartments for movement and health. The sensors help staff detect falls and other hazardous health problems when they happen.  

Voice Assistants
Much of the smart houseware on the market these days wouldn’t exist without the voice assistants that control them. Voice-powered technology like Google Home, Amazon Echo and Siri have seemingly endless benefits for aging seniors.

For those with limited mobility, voice assistants allow users to turn on lights, adjust the thermostat, control home security, power on outlets and more — all with a simple voice command.

Furthermore, voice assistants may also be able to alleviate the feelings of isolation. Seniors are at a high risk for loneliness and isolation, especially those who may be “aging in place,” or choosing to live in their homes without assistance for as long as possible. With just a few words, smart devices like Amazon Echo can connect seniors through video and phone calls with their family and friends. 

Intergenerational Spaces
Senior living communities are a great way for older adults to fight isolation, with lively common spaces and more programming than most can fit on their calendars. But studies show that older adults don’t want to live in an age-segregated bubble. They want interaction with all age groups, including youth. Enter intergenerational spaces.

Mixed-age programming isn’t a high-tech idea, and it isn’t exactly new. It is, however, gaining traction. In fact, a Generations United study showed that 94 percent of all Americans believe that older people have skills that can address children’s needs, and 89 percent believe that youth can also meet the needs of elders.

In 2019 you may see more senior living communities provide programming like reading groups, music classes and art workshops that are designed to bring seniors and youth together.

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