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Health & Spirit

New technology attends to seniors' health, quality of life

Nancy Dahlberg, Miami Herald on

Published in Health & Fitness

Who hasn't worried about elderly family members and wished it was easier to keep up with them from afar?

Now there's technology that offers better care for the seniors and peace of mind for the family caregivers, employing advances in artificial intelligence, big data and voice technologies.

One company has a solution that tracks and analyzes a senior loved one's activity and routines and will alert caregivers when something is out of the ordinary. Another startup supplies "grandkids on demand" to help with transportation, chores and companionship. Still other companies have rethought the daily phone call, supplied elder-friendly multilingual hospital discharge instructions and matched up the elderly with others who have room in their homes. Yet another enhanced alerts for when your elder falls and can't get up.

It's a large and growing market. More than 50 million Americans are over 65, and 10,000 more reach that age every day. While that age group is now about 13 percent of America's population, it will jump to 19 percent by 2030 -- about 72 million people -- according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. About $1.2 trillion is spent on health care for American seniors each year, according to government estimates.

Perhaps most important, this technology can keep seniors safe and independent, allowing them to live in their homes -- their overwhelming preference, according to surveys. Some of the technology could also prevent life-changing injuries caused by falls. The big vision is to empower the elderly to live more safely on their own while easing the worries of their loved ones.

Through its mobile app, website or 800 number, Miami startup Papa provides assistance and socialization to seniors through young and enthusiastic team members called Papa Pals. It's like grandkids on demand, said CEO Andrew Parker.

 

Parker came up with his startup idea from a personal need. Andrew Parker's grandfather had been diagnosed with early onset of dementia that progressed into Alzheimer's disease. As a family, the Parkers had a lot of difficulty managing his daily needs and supporting his primary family caregiver, Andrew's grandmother.

Papa started as a simple concept, said Parker, who previously worked at telemedicine provider MDLIVE, which was founded by his father. "Our grandfather and grandmother need support; others must as well. There is a huge senior population that continues to grow on a daily basis. There are also a lot of amazing college students who want to become future nurses, doctors and other leaders. Let's connect these inter-generational groups and I bet something amazing happens."

So Parker gathered a small team and started Papa to support his grandfather, whom he called "Papa," and other seniors. The service now has about 150 Papa Pals on board. Most are college students earning extra money.

Recently, Papa Pal Valeria Sosa, a Broward College student, took Olga DeMartino, 92, to her weekly hair appointment. After Sosa walked with her to the car and buckled her in, they chatted and joked about each other's families.

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