Technology helps older adults, families, and caregivers

It seems hard to keep up with all the changes that are swiftly coming in this new digital era. There are so many great advances that help old people.

Many older adults are learning how to use iPads and smartphones, which allows them to “video chat” with family members far away or to see their photos and videos on Facebook. These advances provide personal contact and pleasure to keep in touch with family and friends in ways that were previously only available by letter and telephone call.

Important uses of technology are also helping caregivers and older adults. Recently, New York State approved the operation of the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft that expand transportation options for people to travel to doctor appointments or for other activities.

Other new technologies allow family members or caregivers to monitor an older family member living alone. Perhaps you have heard of sensors that will provide an alert if the person being monitoring has not opened the refrigerator by lunch time.

Technology can promote social connections; computer software allows groups in aging-in-place “villages” to connect members who have similar social interests, such as book clubs or movie-discussion groups. Technology also can assist individuals with tracking their own health and preventive-care needs using smartphone apps.

Apple recently announced plans to allow doctors and health providers to upload patient medical records to a health app on the patient’s iPhone.

Alan S. Teel, M.D. has pioneered the use of technology to help his elderly patients stay at home in his rural state of Maine. In his book “Alone and Invisible No More,” Dr. Teel advocates the use of internet-based technology tools along with volunteers and paid assistance to help elders remain at home and remain connected to their communities.

His company, Full Circle America, offers services including: “quick call” buttons, video and sensor monitoring (as noted in the refrigerator example, above), friendly reminder calls and a Circle of Care. The Circle of Care approach helps the individual identify people who can assist and support him or her, including family members, friends, neighbors, and volunteers.

Teel’s approach seeks to be comprehensive by incorporating the human as well as the technological elements. It’s a rapidly developing field with many companies vying to offer “tech” solutions to monitor the well-being of elders.

These new products enhance the ability of older persons to remain living at home longer; we all need to be aware and keep educated about what is available. Community Caregivers staff will continue to study these new products and innovations so that we can provide information for our volunteers, individuals, and family caregivers about new options.

While nothing can substitute for human contact and caring helpers, technological innovations may hold part of the answer to help those who need assistance to live well at home.


Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Michael Burgess is a health policy consultant for Community Caregivers.