With healthcare costs spiraling out of control, a number of forward-thinking electronics manufacturers are developing solutions that enable a person’s health and wellness to be monitored and managed electronically from the comfort of their homes.
But as a few key industry experts pointed out at a recent educational session at the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association Expo (CEDIA) in Atlanta, often it’s the simple technologies, like a basic computer and Internet access, that can make the biggest impact in a aging or disabled person’s life.
“You can monitor the heck out of mom and dad, but if they aren’t engaged and enjoying life what’s the point,” said Jack York, CEO of It’s Never Too Late (www.in2l.com), a Centennial, Colo.–based organization that customizes computer systems for senior care centers across the U.S.
Often, the computers are designed with built-in touchscreens, adaptive devices for those with physical or cognitive difficulties and picture-based interfaces for launching applications. As York, explained, a computer with Internet access help an aging loved-on connect friends, family and their community; exercise their mind; and find real purpose in their lives. “Socialization is the real Trojan horse of the home health technology industry,” added fellow panelist Charlie Hillman, CEO of GrandCare Systems (www.grandcaresystems.com).
As reported by myoptumhealth.com, the top uses of the Internet by people 73 and older are online searches, including news, product research and financial information; email and phone sharing with friends and family; research on health and medical topics.
Realizing the importance of technology to the age-in-place population, a number of home systems installers have spun off home health tech divisions from their core installation businesses. Eric Crawford, president of Home Theater & Automation, Meridian, Idaho, for example, uses the security sensors and control processors from his current portfolio of Control4 products to create his own monitoring systems.
Paul Ebaugh of CyberNet Solutions, Commerce Township, Mich., has taken a slightly different approach. After seven years of installing sophisticated audio/video, automation and security systems into clients’ homes, Ebaugh launched a new division within his company to cater exclusively to the age-in-place market. Called Elderwatch, the company’s core product is the Grand Care System. “It has all the tools necessary for health and wellness—things that standard automation systems can’t really do,” he says. When necessary, though, Ebaugh can always pull from his old bag of CyberNet products, combining the Grand Care System with video surveillance, security and automation devices.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.