Leading Authority on Technology, Seniors Say Technology is Helping Smaller Proportion of Elderly, Disabled to Live in Homes, or With Assisted Living

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Richard Blackwell, founder of SafeHome.net, a not-for-profit organization, and leading national consultant, spokesperson on technology in successful aging issues says report of fewer seniors and disabled as proportion of population in nursing homes validates role of technology in successful aging, disability issues.

Richard Blackwell, special technology advisor to the Congress of California Seniors and founder of SafeHome.net, a not-for-profit organization, says that recent findings that even with an aging population, a smaller proportion of the nation’s elderly and disabled people have to live in nursing homes than in 1990 is due to a growing use of technology that empowers seniors and the disabled.

Blackwell is a leading authority on the contribution of technology to address a host of issues dealing with the elderly and disabled. In that role, he is available for consultation and speaking appearances with organizations and companies that service the elderly and disabled. He is also a co-founder of TheVirtualFamily, dedicated to evaluating and providing services regarding technology in successful aging.

He notes that the study published in the Augusts 2005 issue of the Journal of Applied Gerontology cites an increase in the number of elderly and disabled now able to live in their homes, either independently or with assisted living or some other form of home care.

Residential care and assisted living facilities are designed to meet the needs of older people and people with disabilities who need some assistance with activities of daily living, meals and other support services. According to study findings, the capacity for this type of care nearly doubled in the 12 years from 1990 to 2002, to more than 1 million beds nationwide. When the growth of the population is taken into account, the number of such beds grew from 20.9 to 35.6 per 10,000 people.

In contrast, while the majority of people who need long-term care still live in nursing homes, the proportion of nursing home beds declined from 66.7 to 61.4 per 10,000 population.

“This is due to a realization of the benefits of in-home care or assisted or independent living” Blackwell says. “But for this to be successful, the elderly or disabled person must have access to communications and the surrounding community.”

It was this commitment to enabling seniors to ‘connect’ to the community and family that led Blackwell to first develop his innovative NeighborLink™ personal security system that the elderly or disabled could use to alert selected neighbors, family members and police that they were under attack.

This led to the development of additional products in the NeighborLink™ line, including an emergency medical alert system that notifies 911 and selected family members, emergency relief teams and neighbors, often reducing response time by as much as three minutes.

He followed this with the introduction of an innovative, better smoke detector that not only signals danger from smoke or fire, but which can alert fire departments, 911, and neighbors or family members, an especially important consideration if an elderly or disabled person is overcome by fire or smoke, or is not in their residence.

Significantly, all are no-fee, cost-effective systems.

Now, Blackwell has turned his attention to not only the NeighborLink™ line, but to a much broader basis to offer education, consulting and training on contributions of emerging technologies to organizations such as the Congress of California Seniors, the state’s leading seniors’ group. He has also launched an intensive educational outreach on http://www.SafeHome.net with features and tips on the contribution technology can make to enhancing the lives of the elderly and disabled.

“Increasingly, the country is rediscovering the financial, health and related benefits of allowing the elderly and disabled to remain in their homes and communities,” Blackwell says. “The results are evidenced by the increase in the number of elderly and disabled, as a percentage of our population to remain in their homes or in assisted living.

“In the very near future, we can expect exciting new technological developments ranging from motion sensors to improved communications to medical monitoring to further empower the elderly and disabled to make continued gains in quality, independent living. We look forward to the opportunity to work with and help those organizations that serve seniors and the disabled to attain that goal.”

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Daniel Hines