The Best Tech for Seniors Aging in Place
From automatic pill dispensers to motion sensors, these devices can help you or your aging loved ones live at home independently—and safely—for longer.
Aging in Place: Top Tech for Getting Older at Home
More than seven million Canadians—or about 1 in 5—are persons aged 65 and older, according to Statistics Canada. Of those, there are 13,485 centenarians (as of July 2022), which is proof we’re living longer and healthier lives.
As you might expect, the overwhelming majority want to remain independent at home, rather than move into a long-term care facility or retirement home or rely on in-home help.
Often referred to as “aging in place” (or sometimes “living in place”), technology can play a key role in helping you and your loved ones stay healthy and connected while living alone or with an aging partner.
Here are a few tech-related suggestions to help you or your loved ones age safely at home.
Wearable devices for fall detection and health monitoring
Falling is a major risk for aging individuals. Wearable devices, such as pendants, let you push a large button when in need of help. Many can even detect when the wearer has fallen and relay this information to a remote caregiver and/or emergency services.
Philips Lifeline solutions, for example, offer two-way talk with a live person in the event of an incident. (But be aware: the fall detection feature costs more.) Pendants start at $43.95/month for the HomeSafe landline version, plus an extra $15 for the AutoAlert fall detection feature. There is a cellular model for those without a landline ($48.95/month) and one that can be used outdoors (with GPS) starting at $64.95/month.
A more affordable option, TELUS Health LivingWell Companion Home, is $40.00/month to chat with someone through the device. Both options are water-resistant and offer 24/7 emergency support over a two-way call (via base station).
On the other hand, smart watches like Apple Watch SE (from $329.00) offer fall detection and an Emergency SOS feature, as well as a heart rate monitor. The pricier Apple Watch Series 8 (from $529.00) offers additional sensors to help gauge the wearer’s health, including a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect a dangerously high or low heart rate or arrhythmias, a pulse oximeter, car crash detection and more.
While Apple Watch offers fall detection and the ability to automatically call for help if you don’t confirm you’re okay when prompted, be aware this subscription-free solution does not allow for two-way talk with alive operator—unless you go with something like TELUS Health Medical Alert Pendant, which costs $60.00/month and includes a GPS and cellular-enabled Apple Watch SE. It adds 24/7 emergency monitoring with two-way voice, provided through TELUS Health’s Medical Alert operator.
If the device detects a hard fall or the user makes a call to emergency services, the info is sent to TELUS Health’s national central monitoring station, where a live operator then contacts the customer and alerts contacts and additional help, if needed.
Best Buy also offers the Connected Health with Withings bundle ($599.99), which includes a Withings ScanWatch with heart rate monitor and oximeter, Withings sleep tracking mat and heart rate monitor, and Withings Body+ Wi-Fi body composition and smart scale.
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With consent, cameras are an affordable and simple way to keep a virtual eye on loved ones living alone. Unlike a phone call, when you check in on a family member you can see how they look and what the condition of their living space is. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Perhaps a daily check-in every morning or dinnertime? Speaking of which, many seniors who live alone enjoy regular meals with friends and family over a video chat, for companionship, over free platforms like Zoom, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime and so on.
Webcams and other indoor two-way cameras are easy to set up and use, and are quite affordable. For example, Amazon’s new Echo Show 5 ($119.99; 3rd Gen) is a hands-free Alexa-powered smart display that allows for free audio and video calls. You can also watch videos on platforms such as YouTube and Netflix, play music, set photos to be displayed as a slideshow, ask for recipes, set alarms and timers, and much more.
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Stairlifts and elevators
Typically starting at about $3,000, stairlifts (sometimes referred to as “chairlifts”) can help a senior safely get up and down a flight of stairs.
Prices vary depending on the shape and length of the staircase (solutions for curved staircases could cost three times as much as straight ones). Some can be installed outdoors, too, though a ramp would be a less expensive solution if not too steep.
While they add up to 10 percent more value to your home, elevators are another solution, although costs can be prohibitive. Nibav, however, which just launched in Canada, offers a more affordable air-driven “pneumatic” elevator technology that uses a vacuum system in a tube to “suck” the elevator cab up and down.
These futuristic vertical transportation solutions start at about $25,000—much less than a traditional elevator, plus they’re silent, smooth, safe and can be retrofitted into your home with minimal renovations (and space) required, says the company.
Installed in as little as 24 hours, Nibav home elevators are manufactured with aircraft-grade galvanized steel and unbreakable polycarbonate glass. Along with an emergency stop button, the auto descent function enables the elevator to automatically halt at the nearest floor during power outages.
Like chair lifts, exact prices are given after an in-home assessment.
Reminders and automatic pill dispensers
Whether it’s for taking medications or reminders about appointments and special dates, tech can be a helpful companion.
Smart speakers (like Google Nest Mini, as low as $28.00) and smart screens (like the above-mentioned Amazon Echo Show) can remind you to take your pills. Similarly, a product like the Reminder Rosie Talking Alarm Clock ($139.99), a voice-controlled clock with a large display, is ideal for one-time reminders or repeated tasks. The hands-free gizmo plays messages for you at the desired time—and can even be recorded by a loved one, if you prefer to hear a familiar voice.
From $99, pill dispensers are another popular category of products—with several players including LiveFine, Philips, e-Pill, and others—that can remind you when it’s time to take medication and dispense the proper medication at the correct time, often when paired with a companion app.
Next, check out our guide to aging in place for helpful tips on growing older at home.