How to Keep an Eye on Your Aging Parents Without Annoying the Crap Out of Them
“I feel like a teenager again,” Ena said. My mother-in-law wasn’t referring to a new exercise routine, a heart-healthy diet, or her latest blood pressure medications. She was talking about Live!y, a sensor-based system I’d just installed in her apartment to keep track of her activity.
Ena was being sarcastic, in her polite Lancashire way. She’s well aware of the various systems we have in place to keep track of our teens; now we’ve started doing it to her.
Among other things, a Live!y sensor attached to her keychain tells us when she leaves the house and if she hasn’t returned home by 10 p.m.
“So now I have a curfew,” she said ruefully. “Never had one of those before.”
Before we go further, you should know a few things about Ena. Though in her ninth decade on the planet, she’s still independent. In fact, she only began living alone for the first time in her life two years ago, after her husband passed. (And she loves it.)
She is more tech savvy than most people half her age; with technology journalists for both a daughter and a son-in-law, that was kind of unavoidable. And she doesn’t really need a system like Live!y — at least not yet. But one day she might, and as our population ages, so will millions of others, including maybe you and me.
A Live!y alternative
High-tech elder monitoring systems have been around for more than a decade, but most are vestiges of an older era. They tend to be ugly, expensive, require professional installation, and charge hefty monthly subscription fees. Live!y is none of those things.
For $150 plus $20 a month, you get a package with six sensors and a base station. Each sensor is the shape of a guitar pick and contains an accelerometer and a low-power Bluetooth chip that communicates with the base. Plug the station into the wall near the refrigerator and attach sensors to the fridge, doors, pill dispensers, and key fob using stickers on each device. Total setup time is less than 10 minutes.
Then you tell Live!y your parent’s typical routine. Does she take medicine once or twice a day, or at specified times? How many meals does she typically eat? How often does she get out? You can view real-time reports of her activities on a web portal or iOS app and get alerts if her activities don’t match the routine you’ve established.
For example, if the key fob sensor is out of range for 15 minutes or more, it registers her as being away. If she’s not back by 10 p.m., Live!y sends you an alert (aka my mother-in-law’s curfew). If she doesn’t leave the house when she normally would, you get an alert for that, too.