Remote Monitoring Technology in Senior Living Prompts “Big Brother” Comparisons

A nonprofit North Dakota-based senior care provider is currently testing a set of monitoring tools that help seniors age in place, but some are wary the new technology might prove too invasive.

The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society’s LivingWell@Home technology provides round-the-clock monitoring for seniors living at home, reports an article from The Atlantic.

Using an $8.1 million grant, Good Samaritan recruited 1,600 seniors and began collecting data at 40 of its assisted living communities beginning in January 2011 to test the monitoring platform.


LivingWell@Home uses three technologies to monitor daily activities such as showering and toiling, including sensors, medical alert buttons and a remote monitor that transmits blood pressure and weight to a control center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The system is one of the latest of many senior care technologies designed to promote the health and well-being of seniors wishing to age in place.

The Atlantic reports:

Whether this costly technology will ultimately prove clinically or economically effective remains uncertain. So, too, is whether a benign health care purpose can help overcome the unsettling “Big Brother” overtones for some potential users.


[S]ome farmers are equipping cow collars with monitors allowing automated milking systems to track the cow’s milk production, amount of feed eaten and even how long it chews its cud. If the system detects a problem, it can call the farmer on his phone.

What benefits bovines might also help humans, albeit with appropriate modifications. Good Samaritan is the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of senior services, operating more than 240 facilities in 24 states. 

The organization’s website tells the story of an elderly woman who agreed to have the sensors installed in the South Dakota farmhouse where she lived alone. Not long afterwards, the sensors detected a change in her toileting that prompted a call from a nurse. In response, the woman sought out her doctor, who discovered a bladder infection.

“Maybe it was God talking to me,” says 83-year-old Carol Tipton in a website video, seemingly near tears.

Pricing for the technology ranges from $500-$750 per month for a senior’s home compared to about $175 a month for residents in Good Samaritan assisted living communities that already have a personal emergency response button service, according to the Atlantic, and the system could be the difference between maintaining independence and needing to make a move into a senior community.

However, the article notes that individual privacy is a major concern among seniors.

“Individuals should have the right to know exactly what information is being transmitted and that appropriate controls are in place,” Christine Sublett, a health privacy and security consultant, says in the article. 

Read the full article at The Atlantic.

Written by Jason Oliva