The rapidly progressing technology of mankind has brought many wonders to both the working population and the retired population albeit fewer in the case of the later. There have been great strides made in geriatric technology that holds the potential to shape the future of senior care. This article attempts to shed light on a few of these technologies.
Biomechanics (Advanced Prosthetics)
If you think the future looks like in Robocop (1987), there could be some truth in it. In the US alone, dealing with limb loss is a 10 billion dollar industry, and prosthetics play a huge role. As per the research cited here (https://www.amputee-coalition.org/resources/limb-loss-statistics/), diabetes is a leading cause of limb loss. Many of us have known diabetic grandparents and it is no coincidence that statistics by CDC – Centre for Disease Control and Prevention shows that over 25% of seniors have diabetes. But the majority of the funding for prosthetic research seems to come for military grants and the future looks exciting for those who only dream of feeling whole.
While today’s prosthetics are often uncomfortable and difficult to control and provide limited functional restoration, the inability to normalize anthropomorphic biomechanics with a prosthesis increases the probability of developing long-term health risks such as arthritis, skin breakdown, and pain. Currently, Advanced prostheses and the integration of robotics in the care of individuals with major limb amputation alongside innovative surgical techniques are being explored for clinical feasibility.
Abstracts from (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764448/) give a more detailed look into the kinds of prosthetics available, the various types of control systems they use from brain interfacing, muscle innervation, myoelectric skin sensors to more basic systems which are already in use. As long as the three-pointed love triangle of people’s demand, business viability, and technological feasibility are established these innovations are bound to reach the markets soon.
Non-invasive diagnostic technologies
Despite many Sci-fi movies depicting squeamish scenes of alien probing, we find relief in the fact that the future of medical diagnostics is going non-invasive. Although grandpa may feel the doctor did not have a hands-on close look at the issue, we are sure everyone will be glad that a vial full of barium need not be swallowed every time you go in for heartburn.
With huge improvements being made in imaging technologies and increased demand for the same, their costs are going down and are becoming more available to the common man. Apart from imaging technologies, skin-based sensors are now eliminating the need to draw blood and can measure various things from your blood sugar and vitamin levels to even stress levels. You can find more at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/toc/10.1002/(ISSN)2192-2659.Diagnostic-Devices-for-Healthcare
IoT in elder care
Yes, it is the age of connected systems and devices but as technocrats, we prefer to call it “Internet of Things”. Everything from your AC, washing machine, windows at home to heart monitors and ventilators in a hospital can be connected to the internet. This allows us to control these devices from our phones or computers as well as receive information from them. For example, your favourite doctor can monitor your heart even while he is away at a medical conference in Switzerland.
What takes IoT to the next level is that this information that is sent to us from these connected devices can be read by a smart computer that can act on our behalf. It is now possible to program your windows to automatically shut if it starts to rain and perhaps even order groceries online when your microwave says that you cooked your entire stock of instant noodles last night. This technology already exists but it just seems sophisticated to the average human to demand such a thing.
Currently, the smart speakers seem to be IoT devices that are all the rage among the elderly, who find it easy to ask for weather updates, request a retro superhit, or even hail a cab. Be it Siri, Alexa, or Google assistant they are a result of Artificially intelligent voice recognition, which brings us to the last section of this article.
AI in elder care
Machine learning is an area in AI or artificial intelligence. Being exactly what it claims, the program/machine learns continuously from the inputs it receives and tunes the parameters it uses to control the program itself, continuously learning from the inputs and finetuning. This is referred to as training. What training requires is conspicuous amounts of information that these IoT devices send.
The continually collected data makes it possible to predict success rates for surgeries, patient counsellor fit, and even the probability of readmission post-surgical procedures. These predictions can help us make better choices and take necessary precautions.
Oncierre is a start-up that is specifically training their AI system to prevent falls from going undetected, monitor senior citizens and deliver insights that can improve their quality of life. It is truly a feat to be able to do this without the need for cameras and microphones or wearables. This technology is in high demand from caregivers whose parents and wards prefer to live independently or in case they have memory disorders. Learn more about them here.
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