Older Americans Open to Caregiving Technology

Home Monitoring, Safety and Health Devices Should be User-Friendly for All Ages and Abilities


WASHINGTON, DC – April 29, 2011 – Older Americans and caregivers are increasingly aware of and willing to try new technology that makes it possible to stay independent at home according to a new study by AARP.  The new study, “Healthy@Home 2.0,” asked two groups, people age 65+ and caregivers age 45-75, about home safety, monitoring, communications and health technology and their willingness to use it.  The results show a growing level awareness of some technology and an increased willingness to use safety devices among both populations.

“Home safety, monitoring, and communications technology are coming of age at a key time for a new generation caring for their loved ones,” said Jody Holtzman, AARP Senior Vice President for Thought Leadership.  “This could be the first generation of caregivers for whom technology could provide seamless access to communications and real time information about how well their loved ones are doing as they continue to live on their own.  The data from “Healthy@Home 2.0” demonstrate that the needs, awareness, interest and ability to pay are substantial.”

Today, most caregivers communicate with family and friends by email (81%) and use the internet to search for health information (71%).  While fewer people age 65+ use these tools, a large majority would be willing to use them if they were available (85%would use email and 73% would search the internet for health information).

Interest in home health, safety and monitoring technology has gone up among both caregivers and older people from the first time this survey was conducted in 2007.  Caregivers are more aware than they were in 2007of fall sensors and devices that passively monitor whether a loved one is up and moving around.   Around half of older people would welcome these devices and a quarter would like a device that wouldn’t let them forget where they were in the process of preparing a meal.  Eight in ten (81%) even would even be willing to sacrifice some privacy to help family know they were safe, if it meant they could continue to stay in their own home.

As home health technology continues to improve, one-quarter of caregivers (24%) are aware of  stand-alone personal health and wellness devices like an electronic pill box and half (48%) would use it. Although they are generally more aware of health devices that interact with health care providers, their enthusiasm for those devices lags.

Anticipated cost may be a factor, with about four in ten (37%) caregivers having $50 or less to spend on any combination of home safety or home health technology.  They also are skeptical of an older person’s willingness to adopt technology: around half anticipate a great deal of difficulty persuading their loved one to adopt technology.  For their part, many of the 65+ population say they would be willing to adopt some kind of technology that supports their ability to live independently.   “Perhaps Boomer caregivers are concerned that today’s home health and monitoring technology subjects the user to too great a learning curve,” said Holtzman.

That sentiment was supported by a second report released in concert with “Healthy@Home 2.0.” The second report, “Connected Living for Social Aging,” analyzes the state of the home safety/home health tech sector and it recommends that the technology industry craft a total customer experience that seamlessly blends online and offline worlds and is designed to serve people of all ages and abilities.  “Meanwhile, the best contribution to a future when homes and communications devices will interact seamlessly with caregivers is for today’s developers to design technology that is user-friendly for everyone,” said Holtzman.  “Design-for-all technology should be the standard for all developers, large and small,” he said. “Industry has no more excuses; the market potential is significant, in the billions of dollars, and real needs are waiting to be met.”

Companion surveys were designed for “Healthy@Home 2.0,” one survey for adults age 65+ (n=940) and one for caregivers 45-75 years (n=1,152) who provide assistance with activities of daily living or instrumental activities of daily living.  Data were collected between November 22 and November 29, 2010 by Knowledge Networks. New questions were added to questions from the first wave collected in the fall of 2007.  Some questions were updated.  Statistical significance is reported at the 95% level of confidence in the text and tables.  “Connected Living for Social Aging” was written for AARP by industry analyst Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch.


AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with over 35.1 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP’s millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Contact: Media Relations, 202-434-2560

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Table of Contents (condensed)

  • Executive Summary & Recommendations for the 65+
  • Executive Summary & Recommendations for Caregivers 45 to 75
  • Detailed Findings of Adults 65+
    • Profile of Older Adults 65+
    • What do People 65+ Want?
    • Willingness to take Responsibility for Health
    • Importance of Family
    • Current User of Personal Computer
    • Current User of Home Safety Technology Devices
    • Current Use of Personal Health and Wellness Technology
    • Financial Estimates on Expected Cost and Resources Available
    • Opinions about Telemedicine
    • Conclusions and Recommendations
  • Detailed Findings of Caregivers
    • Profile of Caregivers 45 to 75
    • Caregivers Perceived Problems and the Value of Solving Them
    • Current User of Personal Computer
    • Current User of Home Safety Technology Devices
    • Current Use of Personal Health and Wellness Technology
    • Financial Estimates on Resources Needed and Available
    • Opinions about Telemedicine
    • Conclusions and Recommendations
  • Appendices