COLUMBIA, S.C. - Seniors want independence, and new technology is allowing them to live at home longer than ever before.
Josie and Bernie Shelly, for instance, are in their 80s and have no plans of slowing down.
"I've never been afraid a day riding with him," said Josie Shelly.
An accident at home, however, frightens them both.
"I think that's always on your mind, if he was to fall or one or the other wasn't around," Josie said.
One in three people over the age of 65 falls each year, but new technology is now keeping a watchful eye on our aging population.
"We are doing research to find things to keep older adults in their home longer," said Debra Krotish, assistant director for senior smart, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia.
A vibration detector can be placed on the floor to detect if a person has fallen.
Motion detectors track a person's movement. Family members or friends can track the movement or non-movement from their computers, without being too intrusive.
"If you put them by the bedside or by the bathroom door, you know that mom has gotten up in the middle of the night," Krotish said.
New research shows 30 percent of people who end up in nursing homes do so because they couldn't manage their medication.
Well, pill dispensers have come a long way, from a box with pills divided by day to an automated pill dispenser. A caregiver can load several days' worth of medicine, and the machine is coded to deliver the right amount at the right time.
And a blood pressure cuff and scale sends data by Bluetooth to an online system that family members and caregivers can access.
These are four ways to keep seniors safe and at home. No single private insurance plan or public program pays for all types of assistive technology. Medicare pays for up to 80 percent of the cost of what it calls durable medical equipment.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers more extensive financial assistance for veterans needing it.
Nearly 40 million Americans are over the age of 65. Five years from now, that number is going to double. That means one in five people will be in their mid-60s. Those 85 and older will stand for 15 percent of the population.
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