AARP: “Industry Has No More Excuses,” Seniors and Caregivers Open to New Technology

Staying at home and living independently is a large priority for senior citizens, evidenced by a recent AARP press release that says seniors and caregivers are increasingly open to new technology that would enable them to do so.

“The best contribution to a future when homes and communications devices will interact seamlessly with caregivers is for today’s developers to design technology that is user-friendly for everyone,” said AARP Senior Vice President for Thought Leadership Jody Holtzman in the press release.  “Design-for-all technology should be the standard for all developers, large and small. Industry has no more excuses; the market potential is significant, in the billions of dollars, and real needs are waiting to be met.”

A 2010 AARP study, Healthy@Home 2.0, shows that more than 90% of surveyed seniors either somewhat or strongly agree with the statement, “What I’d really like to do is continue living on my own for as long as possible.” More than nine out of ten respondents said they would be willing to pay for services that would enable them to stay in their home, and 81% are even willing to give up some of their privacy if it means they can maintain their independence longer.

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In 2007, AARP conducted a survey of seniors and caregivers to gauge interest in home health, safety, and monitoring technology; the most recent study shows that awareness of technological options has increased among both group, although willingness to give up privacy by using this technology has gone down somewhat.

“Home safety, monitoring, and communications technology are coming of age at a key time for a new generation caring for their loved ones,” said  Holtzman.  “This could be the first generation of caregivers for whom technology could provide seamless access to communications and real time information about how well their loved ones are doing as they continue to live on their own.”

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The release says that a majority of caregivers already employ email to communicate with friends and family (compared with two thirds of seniors) and also make use of Internet search engines for health-related questions, along with about 50% of seniors. The 2010 study reports a sizeable 85% of respondents who indicated interest in using email and 73% who said they would utilize the Internet for health reasons if these resources were available.

House renovations and technological options are available to increase home safety for seniors and also aid them when it comes to health and wellness, and the study reports that a large majority of seniors believe these options would make them feel safer and give them a greater peace of mind. Many respondents showed a willingness to use some of these devices even though they had been previously unaware of their existence, and AARP suggests that actual use will increase as awareness goes up.

However, the study notes that the cost of these technologies and renovations may prevent seniors from utilizing them, as both caregivers and those they care for may not be able to afford them. Additionally, many caretakers expressed doubts as to whether or not seniors will be able or willing to learn certain technologies, prompting AARP vice president to call for universally user-friendly technology.

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View a copy of the study.

Written by Alyssa Gerace