COVID-19 has changed the way we work, learn, and interact with others. Our “new normal” includes mask wearing and social distancing, which are our only options to limit the spread of the virus until we can distribute an effective vaccine. The temporary restrictions placed in our lives, while frustrating, do come with an upside: technological advances (and more importantly, the willingness to adopt technology) that otherwise would have taken years to develop. The ramifications of this leap forward are widespread, and include how and where elderly individuals will spend their golden years.
First and foremost, retirees are more likely to shun nursing homes and instead stay in their homes longer. Nursing homes alone have carried more than 8% of total cases and 40% of COVID related deaths. In result, they have seen drastic swings in visitation.
Not only are individuals reluctant to give up their homes for a nursing facility, but nursing homes have been struggling financially as well. According to the American Health Care Organization, 55% of nursing homes are operating at a loss and 72% said they could not sustain another year at their current pace.
Looking forward we will see a push for fewer, better quality nursing homes, as well as more incentives for people to age in their homes. Community based programs such as the Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) provide medical and social services to elderly individuals allowing them to remain at home. These types of programs also tend to cost less on average than receiving care in a nursing home facility.
Elderly individuals have embraced technology in order to remain connected with family and friends; because of this, they became a target market for new innovation. Since the decision in March expanding Medicare reimbursements for virtual visits, we have seen a spike in the demand for telemedicine.
Home use wearables and diagnostic tests allow doctors real time data collection that can increase accuracy and decision making. These devices can capture physical activity, promoting monitoring of your heart rate, blood pressure, and EKG.
Apps such as Amazon’s Care Hub have made it easier to check in on your loved ones by seeing their activity through the Alexa app. Alerts can be set up to let you know when there are periods of zero activity.
Amazon’s Alexa will also call and send a notification to your phone if your loved one asks for help. They have just launched Amazon Pharmacy, a delivery service for prescription drugs.
The temporary pause on our lives brought on by the pandemic is an ideal time to explore how new technologies can improve your quality of life.