Majority Press

UMaine Research Official Testifies Before Senate Panel to Discuss Technologies that Help Seniors

Committee Chairman Susan Collins Invites Dr. Carol Kim to Testify


          WASHINGTON, DC-- At the request of Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, Dr. Carol Kim, Vice President for Research at the University of Maine in Orono, testified before that Committee today about the university’s efforts to help seniors age in place though the use of technology.  Today’s hearing was titled, “Aging in Place: Can Advancements in Technology Help Seniors Live Independently?” The Committee examined how many advancements in technology, such as telehealth, electronic sensors, and medical alert devices have and will continue to play a role in helping seniors to stay in their homes longer than they otherwise would have. 

            Senator Collins said, “As people age, they naturally want to remain active and independent for as long as possible. AARP surveys consistently reflect the fact that aging in place is the preferred option for seniors who want to avoid nursing homes and other institutionalized care as long as possible.”  The Senator explained that while technology is not a replacement for professional care or personal attention from family members, it can help to bridge the “care gap” and extend the amount of time a person is able to live independently.

            Dr. Kim discussed the work being done at UMaine to enable seniors to “age and thrive” in place. A great deal of the university’s research has been focused on helping to prevent seniors from falling and to help mitigate injury upon a fall. For example, the university is working to develop a clothing garment that would provide hip protection to help prevent a fracture upon a fall. In addition, the university is working to develop “non-stigmatized” protective head gear that has the appearance of a regular head band or baseball cap.

            Dr. Kim also described UMaine’s work to develop a device that could be mounted on an individual’s glasses to help detect edges, such as stairs or curbs, or benches that could create falling hazards. This technology would be particularly helpful to seniors who have limited mobility and eyesight challenges.

            Also to testify before today’s aging panel was Charles Strickler, a caregiver from Virginia, who used technology to enable his mother and mother-in-law to stay in their homes longer than they otherwise would have.  Sensors installed, for example, enabled him to know when there had been a fall, or if his mother or mother-in-law had stopped eating.  

            Mr. Strickler believes that the technology that enabled his mother to stay in her home ultimately saved his family more than $300,000 by not having to move her into a nursing home or assisted living.

 

           Dr. Maureen McCarthy, a physician from the Department of Veterans Affairs, discussed the agency’s telehealth program, which has enabled participants to receive care in their own homes and avoid lengthy trips to distant health centers.  According to Dr. McCarthy, the program is estimated to save $2,000 per patient annually.

 

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