The number of U.S. seniors aged 65 or older topped 50 million in November 2016. By 2020, this number is expected to grow to nearly 55 million. According to AARP, about 34 million people in the U.S. provided unpaid care to adults aged 50 or older in 2015. Our country is facing a critical shortage in the supply of paid and unpaid caregivers for our older citizens. Technology will have to play a key role in monitoring and maintaining the health of seniors if we are to make more efficient use of the available caregivers. Yet we still have a lot to learn about best practices and which products and services can be most helpful.

Maplewood Senior Living owns and operates senior living residences, and it is taking a proactive approach to technology for seniors. The company has opened the Center for Aging Innovation and Technology at its residences in Westport, CT. This gives them a living laboratory to explore different products and services, working with their residents. One of their pilot programs is to test a virtual reality (VR) system developed to give seniors immersive experiences that can “entertain, spark memories, foster social connections and reduce stress and anxiety.” They are also testing fall prevention systems that reduce the number of falls among their residents who are at highest risk. The Center will also include a “Skype Lounge” where residents can interact with family members, and even “attend” events remotely such as weddings and birthday parties.

Technology has the potential to enrich the lives of seniors and to improve their health. Projects such as this one by Maplewood will provide valuable real-world experience that will help point the way to make the most of these products and services.