The State of Elder Care
The Baby Boomer generation started turning 65 in 2011, and roughly 10,000 of them celebrate their 65th birthday every single day. It’s estimated that there will be more than 81 million Medicare beneficiaries by 2030, when the last of the Boomers hit retirement age.
Elder care is a swiftly growing field, but will the industry be able to keep up with the growing needs of the senior population? Let’s take a closer look at the state of elder care, how it has changed and how it will continue to change in the coming decades.
A Growing Industry
In 2010, senior citizens made up 10 percent of the country’s population. By 2030, they will make up a full 20 percent of the population, nearly doubling their numbers in 20 years. It’s predicted that by 2050, individuals over the age of 85 will outnumber the entire working population.
Traditional nursing care is having to change to keep up with the needs of the aging population. The focus, however, is shifting — instead of focusing on assisted living and inpatient care, the focus is shifting to home health care and technology-based assistance to encourage seniors to live independently for as long as possible.
What can technology do for the growing senior population?
Smart virtual assistants like the Amazon Echo or Google Home can automate home services like lights, smart appliances and other home functions.
These assistants can also keep track of schedules, remind individuals when to take their medications and even call someone if they fall or are injured and unable to reach their phone. Simply saying the activating phrase — “Alexa” or “Okay Google” — provides the senior with a world of information and tools.
Tying these devices into smart appliances could notify the individual if they’ve left the sink running or the oven on — the number one cause of fires in senior homes is unattended cooking, so those notifications could prevent property damage, injury and death. Water damage can be expensive to repair, and it can be caused by simply leaving the tap on when a bath is running.
Smart homes equipped with motion sensors can allow seniors to live independently too — these sensors can detect movement or be programmed to trigger a safety check if they don’t detect movement for a certain amount of time or if they detect a loud sound that could indicate an accident or injury.
The devices mentioned can work in tandem with an existing Life Alert system, or independently. These tools, along with more that will be developed in the future, will make it easier for senior citizens to live independently for much longer than they can today.
The Future of Elder Care
As technology advances, so too will elder care — and many of those advances are already helping seniors live more independent and productive lives. Japan, for example, is already using nurse robots to assist with patient mobility. These robots can even lift patients from the floor or from their bed, move them or turn them if they’re unable to do so themselves.
This development is beneficial for both the patient and the nursing staff — using a nurse robot for patient movement reduces the chance that a patient could be dropped or a nurse could hurt themselves lifting a heavy patient.
It might take some time to teach elderly patients to incorporate virtual assistants and other Internet of Things devices, but the benefits could change the way the elder care industry treats its patients.
Elder care is on track to become one of the biggest medical industries in the country in the next decade or so.
The industry will have to change to keep up with the growing number of seniors that are reaching their golden years.