According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the growth in the number and proportion of older adults in the United States is unprecedented. Two factors — aging baby boomers and longer life spans — will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 years or older during the next 25 years to about 72 million. By 2030, older adults will account for roughly 20% of the U.S. population.
Learn more from Kimberly O’Loughlin, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Home Monitoring, Philips, about this era of aging seniors and their independence and technology.
Aging, Independence and Technology
With this growing segment of the population comes a new era of seniors that are actively involved in their healthcare and more determined than ever to remain independent, even when aging and health may be making them more reliant on loved ones and caregivers.
In a survey by the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and Philips, 96% of senior respondents said it is important to be as independent as possible as they get older.
This desire and need for independence is crucial and should be kept in mind when making healthcare and lifestyle decisions for and with aging seniors; otherwise significant changes could be detrimental to their health and well-being.
For seniors to maintain their independence and continue living the full, active lives they desire, combining physical and mental wellness techniques with technology can be very beneficial and help keep them safe and connected.
Here are five areas that can help:
1. Be active, eat healthy. Activities such as walking and light weightlifting can help seniors with agility and balance, and preserve mobility, all of which can help decrease the likelihood of a fall. Group classes designed for seniors can be a great way to stay fit, while also being fun and social. Maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and smart carbohydrates is also important. Reducing sodium intake can help to avoid problems such as high blood pressure, stomach ailments and weakened bones.
2. Have a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep plays a big role in healthy aging. However, for many seniors, natural changes in sleep habits and patterns can make it challenging to get restful sleep. Sleep disturbances among seniors can have a number of causes including anxiety and depression, painful conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis, and the need to use the bathroom frequently at night. Lack of sleep can impair memory, slow reaction time and exacerbate other health conditions. Keeping a regular schedule, avoiding caffeine, exercising and sleeping in a dark, relaxing environment can help seniors get a better night’s sleep and lessen health and safety risks.
3. Remember your medications. One in ten senior hospitalizations is related to medication mismanagement. For many seniors, it’s challenging to keep track of their medications, but there are many tools available to help them get doses and timing right. Some are as simple as plastic pill organizing boxes. More advanced solutions include mobile apps that send a reminder when it’s time for meds, and automatic devices that dispense presorted medications at preprogrammed times.
4. Stay mentally fit. Studies have associated activities such as learning a language, playing memory games, playing a musical instrument or reading and other cognitively stimulating exercises, with a slower rate of mental decline. Staying mentally sharp can help seniors prevent memory loss and maintain their independence, enabling them to better manage everyday tasks such as driving, preparing meals and remembering to take medications. Taking on new activities like mindful meditation can not only help seniors to improve cognition, but also reduce stress levels, helping them to combat depression and lead happier lives as they age.
5. Use technology to stay connected. Email, social media such as Facebook, and technology including FaceTime and Skype are great ways for seniors to stay connected with family and friends. From watching a grandchild’s soccer game from a distance or catching up with a long lost friend, these solutions can bring seniors closer to loved ones and help prevent some of the isolation and loneliness that can take a huge toll on seniors’ mental health.
Technology also keeps seniors connected to help if needed, and allows them to maintain active lives with less worry for themselves and their caregivers. Some mobile response apps can connect seniors to a call center with the simple click of a button in the case of an emergency. Additionally, medical alert services provide seniors with direct access to help both in their homes and on the go, and ensure help is never far away in the event of a fall. Some even come equipped with fall detection technology that can detect a fall and call for help if the senior is unresponsive or unable to do so. There are also new wireless medical alert devices equipped with location technology and two-way communication so seniors can be safe and secure on-the-go, outside of the home.
With today’s advances in technology and many wellness approaches, the country’s growing senior population can thrive and live active and independent lives throughout the aging journey. In turn, their caregivers can stay connected and have peace of mind in knowing loved ones are safe and content.
About the Author
Kimberly O’Loughlin is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Home Monitoring, Philips. She leads the global business serving seniors and their caregivers with safety, health and connected solutions including Philips Lifeline emergency response services, medication management solutions and a cognitive health service. Kimberly has over 26 years of leadership experience at companies that include Vonage, AIG and AT&T.
In 2012, she was inducted into the Executive Women of New Jersey, a premier organization connecting executive level women while mentoring and supporting others through scholarships and advanced education. Kimberly was featured in Executive Profile magazine in 2013 and was named on the Top 25 Executive Profiles list.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University, and a master’s degree in applied psychology from Steven’s Institute of Technology.