Technologies Help Adult Children Monitor Aging Parents
By HILARY STOUT
IN the wee hours of July 14, Elizabeth Roach, a 70-year-old widow, got out of bed and went to the living room of her Virginia ranch home. She sat in her favorite chair for 15 minutes, then returned to bed.
Michael Murdoch remotely tracks the well-being of his mother, Elizabeth Roach, from his home in Aurora, Colo.
She rose again shortly after 6, went to the kitchen, plugged in the coffee pot, showered and took her weight and blood pressure. Throughout the morning, she moved back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. She opened her medicine cabinet at 12:21 and closed it at 12:22. Immediately afterward, she opened the refrigerator door for almost three minutes. At 1:36, she opened the kitchen door and went outside.
All this information — including her exact weight (126 pounds) and blood pressure reading (139/98) — was transmitted via the Internet to her 44-year-old son, Michael Murdock, who reviewed it from his home office in suburban Denver.
All was normal — meaning all was well.
“Right now she’s not home,” Mr. Murdock said. That he deduced because the sensors he had installed throughout his mother’s home told him that the kitchen door — which leads outside — had not been reopened since 1:36, more than an hour earlier. The opening of the medicine cabinet midday confirmed to him that his mother had taken her medicine. And he was satisfied that she had eaten lunch because the refrigerator door was open more than just a few seconds.
In the general scheme of life, parents are the ones who keep tabs on the children. But now, a raft of new technology is making it possible for adult children to monitor to a stunningly precise degree the daily movements and habits of their aging parents.
The purpose is to provide enough supervision to make it possible for elderly people to stay in their homes rather than move to an assisted-living facility or nursing home — a goal almost universally embraced as both emotionally and financially desirable. With that in mind, a vast spectrum of companies, from giants like General Electric to start-ups like iReminder of Westfield, N.J., which has developed a system to notify families if loved ones haven’t taken their medicine, are looking for a piece of the market of families with an aging relative.