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From a Distance

Kristine Hayes, 12:43 pm ET

SIX YEARS AGO, when my grandmother was age 94, our family felt it was best for her to move from her home to a residential senior facility. She didn’t want to leave the house where she’d been living for more than 50 years. But with no close relatives nearby, we thought the time had arrived.

I’m not sure such a move would be necessary today.

Amazon just announced that its Alexa Together service will begin enrolling subscribers later this year. The service will allow friends and family members to keep tabs on a loved one, whether they live across town or across the country.

The service will provide a variety of options that should assist families with caregiving duties. Phone alerts will prompt family members to call if the person being monitored hasn’t been heard from for a predetermined length of time. An urgent response option will allow an elderly or disabled relative to request emergency assistance using a compatible Amazon device. Third-party devices will be available to detect if a person has taken a fall, and then notify emergency contacts.

Medical alert systems have been around for years. You may remember the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” TV ads for the LifeCall systems sold in the 1980s and ’90s. With the proliferation of voice-activated “smart home” devices over the past five years, virtual caregiving has the potential to be far more effective.

My grandmother turned 100 years old in April. She’s adapted to living in a residential facility. Still, I wonder: If the technology of today existed just a few years ago, would she still be living in her own home?

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Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago

This echoes some thoughts of mine. As self-driving cars improve, it seems likely that one day older people won’t need to drive anywhere, they can simply call a self-driving taxi/uber/lyft service. Smart homes and personal devices may also better enable instant communications and health monitoring. I’m lucky in that my sister lives close by my mom, but I really like the idea of having a technology aide to alert us if she has physical issues and needs immediate help.

Nate Allen
Nate Allen
1 month ago

it seems likely that one day older people won’t need to drive anywhere, they can simply call a self-driving taxi/uber/lyft service

What is preventing an older person from calling a taxi/Uber/Lyft service now?

Susan Frederick
Susan Frederick
1 month ago
Reply to  Nate Allen

In answer to the question “What is preventing an older person from calling a taxi/Uber/Lyft service now?”: In the case of my 87 year old mother, it’s the fact that she doesn’t have a smart phone. While yes, she can always call a taxi, Uber & Lyft are not available to her.

kristinehayes2014
kristinehayes2014
1 month ago

My grandmother is 100 and she’s never owned any type of smart phone. She still has a landline and even that’s difficult for her to operate these days.

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