Charlie Hillman Speaks on the “WISE HOME”

A transcript of Charlie’s speech from UCLA Conference on Technology and Aging – September 30th 2009

Beyond the Smart Home:
Aging in Place with a Wise Home
UCLA October 30, 2009
Aging is not for the faint of heart. As those among us with ever lightening or disappearing hair know, with age comes challenge. We become slower in both mind and body. We become weaker. We are more prone to physical ailments. Like I said, while it certainly beats the alternative, aging is not for wimps.

But for all the downsides of aging, almost every culture associates aging with greater wisdom, that ability to see the entire picture and make better decisions.
So as I thought about this topic, and more particularly why the market for technology for aging has not yet gone viral as many in this room, including me, had predicted, it dawned upon me that to really deliver on the promise of a happier, healthier, and safer age in place experience, our homes need to not only get smarter, they need to get wiser.

A smart home detects a fall and summons help.
A wise home embraces universal design and turns on a light to prevent that fall.

A smart home senses the onset of congestive heart failure and calls 911.
A wise home helps one manage their chronic condition.

A smart home detects wandering patterns associated with dementia.
A wise home encourages hydration, provides mental stimulation and social connectivity to delay the onset of dementia.

A smart home helps others to take care of you.
A wise home helps you take care of yourself.

And with hat tipped to my good friend, Laurie Orlov,
A smart home reduces one’s “burden” on society
A wise home allows everyone to be a productive member of society

Good Morning L&G, my name is Charlie Hillman. I’m from GrandCare Systems in West Bend, WI, and it’s a pleasure to be here today.

At GrandCare, we have a mantra – Age Responsibly.
No matter how prepared we think we are individually for our senior years, as a nation and indeed as world, we’re woefully unprepared. And it’s a crisis that is not obvious like a terrorist attack. It’s more like a stream of lava heading toward the village – slow, but just as devastating.
It’s a sad and embarrassing fact that without cultural change that embraces technology, my boomer generation runs the risk of bankrupting our children and grandchildren with our healthcare and long term care needs.
I am puzzled that in our healthcare debate, we focus so much on access for acute care, and who pays but very little on preventative measures.
Perhaps the best thing that President Obama could do for healthcare is to use his persuasive skills to define a new patriotism based tending to your own wellness. Altruism is at least as powerful an incentive as financial reward. Ask not what your country can do for you, put down that bacon cheeseburger and get on that treadmill. And for those who do not think that such social engineering can be effective, let’s consider the clean plate club, a great example of unintended consequences.
So I am bullish about the future.
We boomers have redefined culture in a variety of ways on our trip through the python, and I call on my generation to act once more. Now it is time to redefine aging: to make it better, more self sufficient, and above all cheaper.
Using technology for care is a no brainer. Machines are much cheaper than people.  Machines never take time off, they are totally nonjudgmental, we can easily create more, and they enable professional and familial caregivers to be efficient and effective, even from a distance.
But, let’s get back to that wisdom thing. Wisdom almost by definition entails a holistic view of things. And so it must be with technology. One trick pony gadgets will simply not suffice. The technology equivalent to a holistic approach is a systems approach, either a very fully featured system, or one with significant interoperability.

Five parts to a wise house wellness system:
1) Physiological sensing — easy, getting cheaper, simple vitals are understandable by most consumers, We see many examples out in the vendor displays. They must have user friendly displays, the ability to export, and some method for feedback. As an alpha site for GrandCare, I’ve taken my weight and blood pressure for the past three years. I am very attuned to what affects my blood pressure (cold medication and Chinese food).
I also have the system send me and my entire family congratulatory emails when I meet certain goals. I love getting those, my kids not so much.
2) Activity monitoring —  in deployments of GrandCare, we have seen many more medical problems inferred by activity vs vitals. Excessive bathroom visits point to a UTI, medication problems evidenced by altered sleep patterns, depression from lessened activity, dementia from late night door openings or wandering motion. At minimum, his information can corroborate vitals readings. While such monitoring is relatively easy and inexpensive, perhaps the biggest impediment has been a lack of standards. When we first started GC…
3) Social connectivity  We live in an age of unparalleled connectivity. There is no excuse for the loneliness and social isolation that has characterized aging in place, particularly after the loss of a spouse or the dispersal of families. We have the Internet, and now we deserve age appropriate interfaces for access, perhaps fewer and larger buttons on a touch screen monitor, or synthesized voice for the vision impaired. At the same time, home technologies must support the latest trends. You may not desire a Twitter cell phone, but your granddaughter will, and if you want to hear from her, you better have something that can handle texting (OMG LOL) and an interface to Facebook or MySpace.  Consider it your responsibility to maintain communications with your grandchildren.  Society throughout the ages has benefitted by adding a dose of senior wisdom to the energy and exuberance of youth.  We must stay in touch and it must be with the tools of the young. Plus it’s big fun.
4) Cognitive Assist  — Sensing wellness or activity can provide the remote familial caregiver with a certain peace of mind, but doesn’t really help much unless there is some sort of feedback to the senior. If a sensor tells us that a pill drawer was not opened at the right time, we can be pretty sure medication was not taken. The point is not to just know this. The point is to help the senior manage their own affairs. So certainly, after a hour drive a reminder to the TV. After another hour, give the senior a call with a reminder. Only after that should we get the caregiver involved. Once again, we need an age appropriate interface. As one ages, they tend to forget what they most recently learned. So, TV, phone. R2D2 pill dispenser will probably be unplugged. Malta.
5) Home control – These are traditional smart home functions: control lights/temperature. This speaks less to chronic condition than to accidents. One of the leading drivers to assisted living is falls. So, as long as we are putting a smart system in, why not turn on a light at night when someone gets out of the bed. Mitigate falls, cognitive assist. It’s easy and effective and its green.
Thank you

– A transcript of Charlie Hillman’s speech at the UCLA conference last Friday September 30th.