Canada's Condominium Magazine
With children long gone (hopefully), and lifestyles changing rapidly for large cohorts of ageing condo dwellers, independence in the condo is more important than ever. It’s more than idealistic talk about freedom and happiness.
Part 1 of this series: staying connected for the independent senior
At its heart, independence in one’s own home is about dignity. My own in-laws, who had no desire to move in with their children, lived in their condo into their nineties with excellent quality of life — and some help from gadgets such as “health alerts” and “automated pill dispensers” we sourced as they needed them.
Although there are “home services” available for some — usually limited, and with long waits — most of us will have to cope on our own, and, in worst cases, might have to resort to group living and supported care despite the extraordinary cost. Assisted living aids can help us retain our independence and the option to stay in our relatively less-expensive condo home. And, if you are a child of a senior, these aids may help your parents retain the dignity and freedom they deserve.
Independence is preferred by most, even at very advanced age
With senior’s residences typically priced at many times to monthly carry costs of a condo, most of us “elderly” folks want to stay independent to the very end if possible. The last senior’s home I looked at was $6500 a month (for a bed). With government help, it can be less — but who wouldn’t rather live on in happy independence in their condo unit? Elevators, nearby transit, and concierge service keep everything accessible even as we lose mobility.
With all of this in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of “helpful” technologies, gadgets and products that innovatively help people with declining mobility issues — helping us stay on in our independent homes.
Cell phones: retaining freedom and security
With many people giving up more-expensive landlines, cell phones are the lifeline. They can also connect to one-button emergency services.
The trick here — I discovered this with my in-laws, who were in their nineties — is big icons, big buttons and simpler choices. That’s not to say a senior wouldn’t enjoy the lastest iPhone or Samsung Note, but typically, those of us who age gracefully like simplicity.
Also, we tend to be on fixed incomes as we move into the golden years. According to “Lifewire” , the top nine phones (as of April 2018) for seniors are:
- Moto E Plus (4th Gen) with Android 7.1 (which has settings to simplify screens) on a nice big 5.5-inch display
- Jitterbug Smart: with built-in “urgent response” features and a beautiful screen, simplified and elegant interface — probably the best overall smartphone for visibility and simplicity
- Alcatel A383G (with big buttons) and available for prepaid plans
- Blue Joy: best for vision-impaired with genuinely differentiated buttons.
- Snapfon — really inexpensive alternative with big buttons
- Jitterbug Flip: a flip version with both big keys and big digits on the screen
- iPhone 6: for those who must have an iPhone, which features a super bright display, and is a relative steal today. Siri voice controls can help in an emergency
- Samsung Galaxy J3: same comment as the iPhone, but for Android users: Bixby voice controls can help in an emergency
- Asus ZenPhone: best battery life, for those of us who forget to charge.
Staying clean: affordable house cleaning robots
Let’s face it, as we get older (at least in my case) the knees creak, the hips don’t cooperate, and the fingers get tired. One handy — and increasingly inexpensive — option is the robot vacuum cleaner. Not only do they putter around cleaning up, but they also don’t forget cleaning day.
Most of the good ones have sensors to prevent you from tripping on them — although that’s a concern for some. You don’t need a $900 Roomba — they’re great, don’t get me wrong — but today there are plenty of inexpensive options.
According to “Reviewed”, the top affordable robot vacuums (available on Amazon and elsewhere) are:
- iLife A4 robot vacuum is a bestseller on Amazon.ca for $249.99
- Neato D3 Connected is a little more expensive but is especially good for pet hair. It also connects to your smartphone (see above list!). Unfortunately, it comes in at a heftier $478.27
- iRobot Roomba 690 is an economical version from the leader in the robot vacuum industry. It is also smartphone connected and comes in at $499.95.
Automated pill dispenser
Whether it’s vitamins or medicines, remembering pills is difficult for all ages. Who doesn’t forget? It can be more critical as our health declines, or for antibiotics, however. If you are tech savvy, you can use your smartphone to trigger alerts. Even handier is a one-month automatic pill dispenser. Who knew there was such a thing? If reviews online are any measure, it’s a hot item. With six dosage rings and a metal key for safety, this is irresponsible for many of us. It runs around $94.95 in Canada.
Monitoring systems can be indispensable
One item that becomes indispensable as we age is a monitoring or alert service. If someone has a fall or a serious issue, they can simply press a button, use Siri on their iPhone or some other type of alert to notify loved ones or authorities. Some actually detect when someone has a fall. Others have GPS enabled, especially valuable for people with memory issues.
One wearable option is (2018 highest score in CHOICE testing) — which includes fall-detection and an SOS button is Live Life>>
A complete monitoring system, which is surprisingly affordable, is the Sonamba Wellbeing Status Monitor. It includes an alert button as well but has a centrally connected panel (similar to an alarm pad). It can be set to send updates to your loved ones and provides extra monitoring for people who might need a little more supervision.