On three days of the week, Dr M.S. Biji, head of the Department of Palliative Care at the Malabar Cancer Centre, in Thalassery, Kerala, slips on a pair of head phones and positions herself in front of her desktop computer. She connects through Internet and a video calling software, with dozens of ageing patients, some staying 30 kms away and too weak to visit a hospital.
Interns from the hospital are already there at the patients' side, to record clinical data. But for many patients, the weekly chat with Dr Biji makes their lives a bit more bearable -- as they learn to live with dignity in spite of their condition. "We call it e-palliative care", explains the doctor, " Talking to and 'seeing' their medical attendant right from their bedsides, gives comfort and solace, not just medical advice."
This Kerala model of telemedicine, has won international kudos --- and is just one of the ways, technology allows aging adults, even healthy ones, to grow old gracefully today. And making this happen has created a new challenge -- and an opportunity -- for industry: Gerontechnology: using high tech to enhance senior living.
The mobile phone has become the life line for many ageing users and special models cater to arthritic fingers, failing hearing and diminished eyesight. on the website SeniorWorld.com, you can find a range of phones for senior like the Easyfone Grand (Rs 4990) with special features like large keys, a speed photo dialer where you can insert the image of the persons you regularly call; a docking station for easy recharging and a large and dedicated SOS button that sets off a loud alarm and sends text messages while calling 5 emergency contacts. Another model, Easyfone Royale (Rs 3350) is made for those who want to link a hearing aid to their phone.
One portal that serves senior citizens with a wide selection of their needs is Seniority.in. It offers the Dromos Bluetooth Tracker (Rs 1199) that you can attach to things like keys or spectacles. When you misplace them, you can click on your smartphone to set off a buzzing sound to track them And usefully, if you carry one on your person, your loved ones can find you if you get lost. I also liked the Smart Finger print padlock (Rs 2899) that elders can open by placing a thumb on it, without struggling with keyholes or number locks.
Diagnostics @ home
One of the biggest hassles for the aged is having to go to a clinic to take diagnostic tests. These days there are services, where technicians come and take blood samples and the like at home. But what about heart patients or those who need constant monitoring of blood pressure and other vitals? Many smart watches and activity trackers now routinely, measure heart rate. But some also provide another vital piece of heart-health data: your ECG. On this page last year, we have reviewed one of the most affordable the T Band developed by Hyderabad-based Smartron, a wearable that records both Blood Pressure and ECG (now at a good discount at Flipkart).
The Mevofit Race E 500 Thrust smart watch (Rs 6999) continuously monitors the heart condition. Clasp the band tightly on your wrist to get ECG trace. The device also measures BP and PPG or photoplethysmography , a measure of blood volume. Data like ECGs recorded by such devices may not be as comprehensive as a 12- lead recording done in a clinic, but one could quickly -- not.
Technology is finally and increasingly taking note of seniors. Thanks to this, we can all hope to grow old, safely and smartly....