Those old enough to remember the '80s and '90s will likely recall the now iconic phase, "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"
Coined in a commercial by a company called LifeCall, the advertised device was simple. Subscribers, who were typically seniors and disabled people, received a necklace-style device with a large pendant featuring an emergency button. When pressed, the device connected the subscriber to emergency services.
Although often a source of comedy now, the commercial reflects a very serious situation for seniors. A fall on the stairs, in the shower or anywhere else in the home can result in a potentially life-threatening injury. Access to a phone to make an emergency call is often impossible in such situations, making the emergency device uniquely necessary.
That technology proved effective enough that there are now several similar devices on the market, including the well-known Life Alert, which consequently outlasted LifeCall and obtained its trademark phrase.
However, the technology behind Life Alert's device is now decades old. Realizing there's an opportunity to connect modern innovations with senior safety monitoring, many companies are now offering various new approaches to senior safety that could only exist thanks to the technology we have today.
Senior Safety Monitoring in the Internet Age
The emergency call button for seniors is likely not going anywhere. However, there are new options on the market for seniors and their families. These include health monitoring via smartwatches or other wearable tech, heat and motion detection through sensors and smart indoor cameras, and even wireless mesh networks that can detect someone's exact location in the home.
Tech startups and veteran companies alike are behind these new technologies. Some are even receiving investments from life insurance companies, which see safety monitoring as a good way to reduce their own costs.
One such example is health tech company iBeat. In May, the company announced that it had raised $10 million in seed money, mostly from tech investment firms and angel investors. Only a month later, iBeat announced strategic investments from SCOR Life & Health and Transamerica Ventures, two of the largest life insurers and reinsurers in the U.S. The investment, which included a significant amount of money, also comes with an agreement to offer iBeat's cardiac monitoring smartwatch to policyholders.
Senior Safety Beyond Wearables
Not all of the new products hitting the market for seniors are wearable technologies. Some allow complete mobility without the need for seniors to lug around necklaces or watches. That includes products like the Lighthouse, which monitors movement and includes facial detection.
New company Totemic Labs is promising a much more passive approach to senior safety monitoring. By using wireless signals to monitor senior movement activity and other factors, the company hopes to provide a more humane and scalable approach to senior care monitoring.
Even large, well-known companies are starting to explore how their products can be used for senior safety monitoring. Google's Nest division appears to be exploring the potential for senior care. The company has approached different senior living homes, possibly to gauge the market and determine how best to craft and target the senior safety monitoring with new or existing technology.
Even as senior safety monitoring takes on a new, innovative face, there will likely still be a place in the market for simple devices with just one button for emergency calls.
Nevertheless, new technology appears to offer methods for seniors and their families to more effectively monitor health and safety.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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