With the “Baby Boomer” generation beginning to reach their golden years, the demographics and family dynamics in the United States are going to change dramatically over the next few decades. Those of us that have passed the magical decade of our thirties not only have retirement and college tuition costs to think about, but how we will care for our elderly parents in the coming years. With families becoming increasingly mobile, it’s more likely than ever that life’s circumstances will force us to live farther away from our elders than desirable.

With life expectancies becoming continually longer, and health care costs rising at exponential rates. how will our generation take care of our parents? Assisted living centers or nursing homes are extremely expensive, personal home care will also cost an arm and a leg, so what are we to do to ensure our parents safety when that time comes?

Well, these decisions may become a bit easier, and our minds may be eased with a monitoring system for our senior citizens. There are a few companies that specialize in these whole home sensor systems but the mostscreen-shot-2010-11-30-at-111454-pm prevalent is GrandCare Systems. Called “sensor networks”, these monitoring systems can keep track of a whole host of things that are involved with helping keep older people independent and in their own homes all while remaining safe. Things like if a person has entered or left a particular room, to if an exterior door has been opened, if a person has taken their medication and monitoring of their sleeping habits can be tracked through the sensor system.

Motion sensors are placed in a variety of locations throughout the home from individual rooms, doors and windows, even under an individual’s mattress to monitor how long they have been up. All of this technology is connected wirelessly to the network, and, depending on the setup, can even send medical information to a desktop or tablet computer for the individual to track, and even directly to their doctor. The specs can even be configured to call a loved one’s cell phone, home, office or whatever when certain conditions are present. For example, if an Alzheimer’s patient opens the front door at 3 A.M.. it’s probably a result of the disease and not a planned exit of their home. The phone call will most likely lead to help being dispatched instead of the elder roaming the streets aimlessly.

This may sound like a bunch of “big brother”, but when you take into consideration some of the afflictions that concern our elderly, such as Alzheimers, the constant monitoring is a small price to pay to remain independent and out of assisted living facilities.

These full home monitoring systems are not cheap and can run from a $300-$500 a month for a leased system with monitoring, to upwards of $5500 for installation. This may seem outrageously expensive, but when you consider the cost of a nursing home facility it’s really quite affordable, and a great option for those that don’t have the funds for assisted living.

While most of us are consumed with what our cell phones can do, the latest and greatest motion controlled video game, and the third dimension in television viewing, many companies are looking to extend our elders quality of life. There are so many more ways we can implement the technology that continually evolves to help others and ease our minds.

What are your thoughts on “sensor networks” for monitoring the movements and health of our senior citizens? Do you think it’s a useful implementation or do you just think it’s a bunch of “big brother” watching? I’m curious to see what all the Techno Buffalo readers think, but especially those of you that have elderly parents or will soon need to think about care for your parents.