Landline phones are quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule. CDC data shows that while 96% of homes had landlines 15 years ago, only around 60% had landlines in 2013. Seniors are also moving away from landlines to less expensive alternatives.
The rapid move away from landline phones is driving fundamental change in the Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) sector, since most of the millions of installed PERS units in use today are connected to a landline. As the percentage of seniors that have landline service dwindles, the PERS sector is responding by making a technological shift.
Traditional PERS Products Rely on Outdated Technology
Most PERS units in use today feature a traditional base station that resembles an answering machine with speakers to allow two-way communication. Units typically also include a pendant with an emergency button that is worn around the neck. Users press the button on the pendant and then communicate using the speakers and microphone on the base unit to talk to an emergency call center attendant, who summons the appropriate help.
The technology used in traditional PERS models is outdated by today’s standards. Customers can only communicate with call center personnel through the base station, which is typically located in the kitchen or living room. This makes it difficult to ask for help from other rooms in the house. And while most base stations have a range of 500 feet, customers generally can’t communicate from their yards or garages.
Mobile Solutions for More Mobile Seniors
As seniors exchange landlines for cell phones and other less expensive phone systems, they are also looking for an alternative to traditional PERS units. Mobile PERS units, which are very small cell phones with emergency buttons and two-way voice communication, can be an ideal solution.
Mobile PERS units allow users to speak directly with the call center from any room in the house, as well as from the yard, garage or anywhere else with cell phone coverage. Since no landline is needed, seniors who use mobile PERS can visit friends or relatives or go on vacation without having to pack and transport a bulky base station.
Mobile PERS devices are easier to set up than traditional PERS and offer features traditional PERS units can’t match, including location technologies. Mobile PERS units can be wearable devices, either worn around the neck with a lanyard or attached with a clip to a belt or keychain. They are lightweight and durable and also waterproof, which is important because many accidents involving seniors occur in the bathroom. The newest generation of mobile PERS devices also utilize battery-saving technologies and enable users to go months between charging.
As seniors live independently longer and learn the benefits of being able to talk to someone wherever they are and whenever they need help, more seniors will want to have a mobile PERS device even if they still have a landline.
Developing New Business with Mobile PERS
With traditional PERS systems becoming obsolete and mobile PERS offering many advantages, the mobile PERS industry is positioned for rapid growth. In fact, according to a recent IHS report, the PERS market is predicted to double over the next several years. But since mobile PERS devices are a relatively new technology and are not usually sold in stores, the challenge is to get the word out and let consumers know that PERS devices have come a long way.
One way to reach people who might not otherwise know about mobile PERS is to partner with companies that sell related services, such as residential security firms or home healthcare companies. Seniors today are living independently longer and are more mobile. That means they need a PERS solution that is as mobile as they are. Savvy healthcare businesses that seize this opportunity can meet rising demand with next-generation mobile PERS devices.
Tom Collopy is CEO of Securus, Inc.