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Independent Living for the Aging Is Possible With New Technology

3 labs put aging in place to the test

They found: Residents thought the tablet wasn't a problem and enjoyed playing an active role in their health. Watching how their medicine worked and seeing what happened to their body if they didn't take it made a difference. Testers also didn't mind wearing the cardiac monitor. Charter House resident Joanne Wayne, 77, tests the tablet and the cardiac monitor and participates in focus groups. She likes the medical feedback and enjoys being able to provide input into project designs.

Founded in 1999, the MIT AgeLab, the country's oldest living lab, creates new technological solutions to help people live better.

They asked: Does a monitoring system that has the same software NASA used to communicate with astronauts in space help improve medication compliance and good food habits? Does it also help people feel more connected socially?

To find out, researchers install a videoconferencing and touch-screen computer system in an older volunteer's kitchen to monitor eating and medication habits. The system sends data instantly to the volunteer's family's computer. The kids or grandkids can log on to see if Mom took her medications and leave messages ("What did you have for breakfast today? I had oatmeal"), upload family photos or have a nightly video chat.

They found: Videoconferencing in the kitchen helps ensure residents take their medication on time and encourages eating and socializing. It also reinforces researchers' belief that older adults will embrace technology if it provides value.

Sally Abrahms writes about boomers and aging. Her caregiving blog can be found at blog.aarp.org/author/aarpsally. Follow her on Twitter @sallyabrahms and at sallyabrahms.com.

You may also like: MIT AgeLab connects the generations.

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