Addressing the rapidly growing need for affordable, high-quality, long-term elder care is, and will remain, one of the most daunting challenges facing healthcare over the next several decades. The costs associated with long- term care for the elderly are skyrocketing. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will grow to almost 60% of the federal budget, driven largely by the cost of this care. Long-term care in the home may represent a potential solution to controlling the public cost of this care. Over 90% of seniors and their families prefer long-term care in the home rather than institutional care. However, changing demographics resulting from longer lifespans and lower birthrates result in fewer children and grandchildren available to care for an increasing number of elders. Population growth among those aged 65?74 are projected to increase to 32.8 million in 2020 and 38.6 million in 2030. The number of individuals aged 75?84 is expected to reach 30.1 million by 2040 and those aged 85 and older is expected to reach 14.1 million. These demographic changes are further exacerbated by the increasing cost of home care delivery, which is disproportionately borne by family members. All of these factors can and do lead to financial hardship for the family and/or social isolation and decreasing care quality for the elder. The application of appropriate technology presents the best option to support both family and professional caregivers in providing this care while keeping costs under control. However, no technical solution can be viable without the participation of the senior receiving the care. Unfortunately, current technology tends to intimidate elders with complex screen menus, stigmatize them with inappropriate form-factor designs and/or are limited by their communication capabilities, which do not extend outside of the confines of the home when the elder is most vulnerable to emergencies. Our working hypothesis is that a cellular-connected mobile communication and monitoring tool, in the form of an ordinary-looking pair of eyeglasses and equipped with an entirely voice-activated interface can address these requirements and in so doing support both family and professional caregivers in providing this care.
This research will result in the development of a cellular-connected, voice-controlled, wearable computer in the form of an ordinary pair of eyeglasses. Its communication, monitoring and safety features will assist professional and family caregivers in maintaining the elder?s safety, dignity and independence in the long-term homecare setting, while also reducing the cost of this care.