Fact Check
The smart move for senior care
Emotional health of elderly people should not be overlooked
By Lan Xinzhen  ·  2023-10-30  ·   Source: NO.44 NOVEMBER 2, 2023

Mattresses that monitor the heart rate and breathing of seniors with disabling conditions, water meters that sound alarms if elderly people living alone do not use water for 24 hours, and wristwatches that help older residents with dementia call for help if they get lost. All these cutting-edge smart care products are designed to ensure the safety and security of seniors.

Nowadays, a growing number of communities across China have set up smart monitoring platforms that are connected to community hospitals and neighborhood centers, so that any abnormal signals received in connection with senior residents can be quickly checked out. Smart senior care is emerging as a new eldercare model in Chinese society.

In China, the vast majority of seniors hope to spend their remaining days comfortably in their own homes rather than in nursing homes. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, in 2022, 96 percent of the elderly were spending their final years at home with care provided only by family members, 3 percent at home with care provided by family members and service providers in their neighborhoods, and only 1 percent in nursing homes.

Since many are usually too busy working to take care of their elderly parents, there is a huge demand for smart senior care products. In addition, these people are often active promoters of these products to their parents. As a result, more and more seniors are embracing smart technologies in their daily lives, from health monitoring to telemedicine systems.

But while such hi-tech products have improved the standard of living for seniors, a new problem is emerging: Their children are becoming increasingly dependent on these products, and direct communication between parents and children is diminishing. As a result, many elderly are becoming frustrated that they receive fewer phone calls from their children during the day—when they are home alone.

Before these products became widely available, their children often called to ask if their parents had, for example, eaten lunch or remembered to check their blood pressure. Today, their children can check up on their parents' health status through mobile apps. As long as the monitors don't go off, they are less likely to call their parents and will concentrate on the work at hand.

On the one hand, personalized smart senior care products take good care of those of advanced age. On the other hand, this convenience can lead to their children neglecting their psychological needs. No advanced technology can replace the warm greeting of one's child.

According to data from the seventh national population census, released in May 2021, people aged 65 and above accounted for 13.5 percent of the total Chinese population. In China's rapidly aging society, how to nurture a healthy senior care industry and make the elderly as comfortable as possible in the autumn of their lives is an important part of the country's overall development.

The application of intelligent information technologies as well as tailored smart senior care products will help a lot. According to Shenzhen-based data and research provider Zero Power Intelligence Group, the market of smart senior care services in China was valued at 5.5 trillion yuan ($750 billion) in 2021. This number is projected to expand at an annual rate of 30 percent on average.

Despite the many benefits of smart senior care products that give the elderly a sense of safety and convenience, their need for emotional connection is equally important. They need direct care and communication with their children. It's urgent that professionals in the field of eldercare develop innovative solutions to address the emotional needs of the elderly. 

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

Comments to lanxinzhen@cicgamericas.com

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