The Age at Which Users Start to Wear Panic Buttons is Decreasing
When speaking about PERS tech, the first idea that comes to mind for many people is the traditional panic button, a device that entails a long lasting stigma. It is not unusual for many seniors to refuse to wear them —even after having experienced a fall, as it is associated with negative thoughts such as the loss of independence. Perhaps traditional marketing strategies, with ads such as the popular “I’ve fallen and can’t get up”, are to blame for having linked alert monitoring devices with a sense of fear and a feeling of vulnerability in consumers’ minds. The fact that they are known as “panic button” could also be a contributing factor!
There may be some truth to this. However, new technological developments in the field towards less intrusive devices are beginning to change this perception. Added to this is the realization that the adoption of a PERS device does not mark a point of no return for seniors; they are instead the best tool at hand to ensure that elderly people can maintain their quality of life and independence for as long as possible. PERS tech can be seen as liberating, instead of condemning. It does not signal the wearer as ‘old’ or ‘frail’, but rather as ‘able’ and ‘independent’, as it helps the person who owns the device live a freer, less stressful life, knowing that they are safe as they go about with their daily routine.
Perhaps as a result of the latest advancements in the market, such as fall detection, mPERS and voice activated alerting, there is a clear trend among consumers to start acquiring this type of devices at a younger age. Geoff Gross, CEO and Founder of Medical Guardian, who has more than 10 years of experience in the medical alert field, says that one of the biggest changes he has observed in the industry is a decrease in the age at which consumers start to use PERS devices: their average first-time customer has gone down from 80 years old to 77.5 in the course of a decade. Gross believes this change is due to improvements in PERS technologies, as well as to a better understanding on the customer side of how these technologies can really help improve their lives. Consumers are beginning to realize that they do not acquire a panic button because they are old, but because they want to maintain their independence and continue to live an active life, removing unnecessary anxiety, fears and worries. PERS brings peace of mind and a sense of safety. There is nothing wrong in starting using it from early on, when the person is still relatively young and active, as an investment for wellbeing in the future. PERS is not limiting, but freeing, and this is something consumers are just beginning to understand now.
There is no specific age to start using a medical alert device, but experts agree that the sooner the better, since it is an effective way to prevent emergency situations in the future, especially and most importantly, if the person is living alone. Gross is of the opinion that any person above 65 and living alone should own some form of PERS at home, the same way one would have a health or a home insurance, just as a preventative solution which hopefully never needs to be used: “it’s important to get protection before the fall or medical emergencies happen. That way, when they do, you’ll have help right away and continue living the life you want, at home”. Linda Rhodes, author of The Essential Guide to Caring for Aging Parents, is of a similar opinion. She thinks that the best time to go shopping for a PERS device is when a senior citizen begins to live alone —due, for example, to having been recently widowed. Louis Tenenbaum, consultant for aging-in-place systems and communities, says that the best time to acquire a device is before the conditions that lead to a fall arise.
For an older adult, a single fall and the way it is managed can mean all the difference between ending up in a nursing home at a relatively young age or keeping an independent lifestyle for many years to come. Therefore if a PERS system can help prevent that fall or at least minimize its effects by offering a quick response —since in these situations time is a crucial factor—, then it should be more than welcome. As Gross puts it, owning a PERS device does not make people old; it keeps them young. And a change of mentality among consumers seem to be gaining ground, as awareness grows and the stigma that still lingers with panic buttons is slowly overcome.
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