One of the hot topics these days is “aging in place;” as a major portion of the U.S. population (and in other countries as well) gets older, it becomes a challenge for many of these seniors to continue to live safely and independently in their own homes. The alternative of a managed care facility, however, can have a major impact on the individual’s quality of life, not to mention on their retirement budgets.

Technology has stepped up to help with this problem, providing affordable systems that allow caregivers and healthcare professionals monitor elderly patients in their own homes. These systems are convenient and provide peace of mind, but are they effective? A new study from the University of Missouri reveals some stunning benefits of in-home monitoring systems. The university is in a special position as it already has an independent living community of its own, TigerPlace. A prior study revealed that by coordinating care among the different healthcare professionals resulted in a 50% increase in the length of residents’ stay in the independent living before moving to an advance-care facility or hospital. They then added sensors to the TigerPlace apartments to monitor walking habits, fall detection, and vital signs. The study showed that health problems were detected one to two weeks earlier than with those residents who did not have the sensors. The result was another increase of more than 50% in length of stay. The national average stay for seniors in independent living housing is 1.8 years; with coordinated healthcare, TigerPlace residents average 2.6 years, and with sensors, the average jumps to 4.3 years.

Nursing home costs average about $30,000 more per person compared with independent living, so the benefits of coordinated care and monitoring sensor systems could result in significant savings for seniors. In addition to improving their quality of life and better healthcare outcomes, this approach can also save enormous amounts of money every year.