How can IoT help with elderly care?

Miguel Maroto    4 April, 2022
IoT-care

In this second article I want to share another life experience where the technology in which I am an expert helps both to care for and make life easier for people I love.

Thankfully, I have two grandparents still alive and, as life inexorably passes, the risk of something bad happening to them, such as heart problems, falling, etc. increases. That’s why I turned to IoT solutions to help minimise that risk as much as possible.

The aim of this article is to give an insight into the market that is opening up in the IoT world for this business opportunity.

What is the potential market like?

First of all, we must take into account that the potential market for this type of solutions, people over 60 years of age, is growing year after year. On the one hand, the world population grew from 6.5 billion in 2005 to 7.71 billion in 2019 and, in addition, according to Eurostat, the percentage of people over 60 has also increased from 10.3% in 2005 to 13.2% in 2019, growing in all regions except Africa.

This trend is set to increase as projections predict population growth, for example in Europe, where Eurostat 1 projects a 43% increase in the number of people over 65 in 2050 compared to 2020.

Another aspect to take into account is that the adoption of the internet by this sector of the population is increasing. We can see for example that internet use by Americans aged 65+ has increased from 14% in 2000 to 73% in 2019 and in 2016, 45% of adults aged 65+ used the internet at least once a week in the EU vs. 82% of the EU population aged 25-64 2

The demographic change we have seen above, where the percentage of older people is increasing, has shown that the ageing population will need more dedicated care than babies and young children in the coming decades. The needs of the elderly have remained the same throughout history, however, it is the delivery of care that will change in the future.

We can identify different kinds of needs that this type of population has, which we can divide into the following:

  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Social

Within the physical needs we can identify the following examples, depending on their level of ability:

  • Assistance with nutrition due to their lack of autonomy in cooking
  • Assistance with medical care and safety both inside and outside their home

Within the intellectual needs, the following examples can be identified:

  • Help with stimulation due to the fact that they suffer from lack of coordination, sight and hearing problems.
  • Help with learning new activities because they have often had to give up jobs or hobbies they previously enjoyed.

Examples of emotional needs include the following:

  • Help from family or carers to carry out everyday tasks that used to be done by this type of population but which they are no longer able to do due to loss of autonomy.
  • Help to overcome a feeling of not belonging, as they have often been unable to continue working or have lost friends and family in old age.
  • Make the person feel cared for, as this demographic group needs, above all others, to have this feeling.

Finally, we can identify the following needs at the social level:

  • Need for communication in their daily life to avoid isolation and feelings of frustration.
  • Need for social interaction outside their family, which may be from peers or others in society.

All these needs can be met in different ways and through different people such as carers, friends, family, neighbours….

However, in a society where Internet use among the older population has increased dramatically in recent years, and is expected to increase further in the future, there is an opportunity to change the way society deals with the older population.

There is an opportunity for technology-based solutions in the health care sector, independent living sector and social sector for the older population as more of this population uses technology and the internet.

What types of IoT solutions for the elderly are offered in the market?

In my search for solutions that would help me improve the care of my grandparents, I have found different types based on solving the needs described above. Mostly, I have found products that help improve the monitoring of the person’s health, their safety and help reduce the feeling of loneliness.

In my case, the solutions that I am thinking of implementing in my grandparents’ home are:

  • Presence sensors: This type of sensor is installed in a non-intrusive way in the home of the person to be monitored, and in an NB-IoT gateway that transmits the information to a cloud platform. The caregiver receives notifications and smart alarms by WhatsApp, email or SMS of the most relevant events occurring in the home, and can access the information securely and in real time from any device and without the need to install any app.
  • Surveillance cameras: easy-to-install cameras that allow the family member or caregiver to see what is happening inside the home in real time.
  • Smart bracelets: this type of solution helps to monitor the person’s state of health in real time, providing alerts for possible heart attacks or other types of health problems that may arise.
  • Assistance button: this is a button that the elderly person wears around their neck so that, in the event of any problem that may arise, such as a fall or a heart attack, pressing the button sends an alert to the emergency centre.

Other solutions have also emerged, which I don’t yet need to implement, that help people not to feel alone, such as a mini smart robot that uses IoT technology and Artificial Intelligence to determine the user’s behaviour and preferences to deliver verbal notifications to remind them to take medication and allow them to make video calls.

All these types of IoT solutions and others that are being commercialised provide the following benefits:

  • Improved interaction between health professional and patient
  • Regular reporting of the user’s well-being to the caregiver
  • Continuous assessment of cognitive status
  • Generation of reminders to perform daily tasks
  • Reduced caregiver anxiety about the individual
  • Improved home security systems
  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Quick and easy installation of new devices without the need for external assistance
  • Relief of depression and increased quality of life.

We must also take into account the risks that this type of solution can have, especially in the field of cybersecurity and fraudulent use of people’s data.

In conclusion, I believe that IoT solutions will help me improve both the care and the interaction that my family, carers and I have with my grandparents. I also think it is a market that is going to have a very high level of innovation because it will not stop growing and the market will demand more and more new sorts of solutions.

  1. Ec.europa.eu. 2020. Database – Eurostat. [online]
  2. European Union, 2015. People In The EU: Who Are We And How Do We Live?. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union

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