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Tech Savvy

Staying Connected to Those Who Care

Gadgets both simple and advanced can extend an independent life at home for the aged or ailing

For those in the market for high-tech help today, the quick guide below is a start. A little gadgetry can go a long way to answering some needs. For more advice, consult a doctor, your Area Agency on Aging, or a geriatric-care manager, a professional who’s versed in how to encourage older folks’ independence by keeping them connected.

SOS BUTTONS            


One third of older adults suffer a fall each year. About a fourth of those who fall lose some independence due to injury.


Remember “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”? That line from a TV ad for the Lifecall medical-alert system became fodder for comedy almost 20 years ago. But now that about a third of older folks live alone—11 million Americans over 65—the emergency pendant is far from a joke. It’s more like the herald of a lifestyle revolution.


While adding grab bars and night-lights or using a walker can reduce the likelihood of a fall, any adult who wants added security should consider an SOS button. It’s essentially a wireless hotline to help. You wear the call button around the neck or wrist or clipped to clothing. If injured or ill, press it to reach a 24-hour dispatcher who will notify a relative, a caregiver, or 911, as needed.

There are many brands on the market, and service plans vary, so it pays to compare. Philips Lifeline costs up to $75 initially, plus $1 a day for monitoring (800-543-3546; Rescue Alert lets you rent or buy; monthly rental is $29 (800-688-9576; Walgreens has Ready Response, which is $35 a month after an initial $35 fee (866-310-9061;, search for “Ready Response”). ADT Companion Service is $99 for setup, plus $35 a month—and less for AARP members (800-209-7599; or

A few insurers cover some services when they’re doctor-prescribed. Your doctor or local Area Agency on Aging may have information on subsidized fees for low-income users.



Up to 40 percent of nursing home admissions result from an inability to take medicines at home unsupervised.


Pill boxes, pagers, vibrating watches, and dispensers that talk to you or alert a caregiver are all options for the common problem of forgetting to take a medication—or not remembering whether you already took it.


You can find dozens of variations on the theme at E-Pill Medication Reminders (800-549-0095; and (877-367-4382). For example, the Multi-Alarm Pill Box and E-Z Set Timer ($49 from E-Pill) allows up to 37 daily alarms. For a less hectic schedule, the MedCenter talking pillbox, about $70, organizes a month’s worth of pills and alerts you four times a day (866-600-3244; Perhaps the most expensive is the MD.2 Monitored Automatic Pill Dispenser ($899 from E-Pill), which both tells you when to take a dose and reports to a caregiver if you miss one.

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