More and more seniors are choosing to “age in place” — stay at home rather than move to assisted living. But for the kids, the thought of Mom or Dad living on their own despite deteriorating health and declining cognitive abilities can be nervous-making.

New technology can help.

These four tools improve on early personal emergency alert systems — those buttons and pendants many older people refuse to use because they scream “senior” — affording dignity while providing you peace of mind.

All of these systems are designed for seniors living alone. The sensors that monitor behavior can’t differentiate the activity of the person being monitored from that of anyone else in the home.

Related: How to Fall-Proof Your Aging Parent’s Home


evermind sensorDid your loved one fail to make her morning cup of coffee or turn on the TV as per usual? Deviations from typical daily routines can be an early indicator of an accident or illness. Evermind knows when an appliance has been turned on or off — and you’ll know, if an alert tells you the TV hasn’t been powered up all day or the bedside lamp was left on all night — that something is likely amiss.

Evermind sensors look like two-way adapters. You plug them into a power outlet and then plug the appliance you want to monitor into the sensor. Caregivers log in to a secure website to see a daily log of appliances use by their loved ones. They can also configure real-time mobile alerts that will indicate the day went smoothly (the reading light went on and off at bedtime) or there might be an issue.

Evermind’s simplicity helps make it unobtrusive. After it’s installed, the person being monitored can forget all about it. The sensors have a built-in wireless system, so no home Internet system is required. Since each sensor plugs directly into a power source, there are no batteries to replace or recharge.

There are a few shortcomings. Evermind’s utility depends on a set of daily rituals, so if your loved one’s routine tends to vary, it won’t be very useful. And only three appliances can be monitored at a time.

Cost: $199 for a three-piece sensor kit, plus $29 a month for service. (Photo: Evermind)

Related: How to Protect Your Parents' Assets If They Need a Nursing Home


beclose stationBeClose is similar to Evermind in purpose and ease of use. It costs more, but it uses a different kind of sensor to give a more detailed picture of your loved one’s daily activities.

Like Evermind, BeClose sensors have an integrated wireless network, so no Internet connection is necessary. But BeClose sensors don’t need to be plugged in and can attach to anything, such as entry doors, bath mats, beds or furniture. Motion sensors are available that can be placed on shelves or mantles to monitor the room, and pillbox sensors to let you check on medication usage.

In this way you can keep track of activities far beyond the turning on or off of the coffee maker, such as leaving the home, bathroom habits, meal frequency and time spent in bed. BeClose also includes an emergency button that a senior can press if they need an alert sent to a caregiver.

Caregivers can access real-time data and end-of-day summaries via the secure BeClose website. Phone, text or e-mail notifications can be set up, to more than one recipient if necessary.

How well BeClose works is largely dependent on where you place the sensors, so choose wisely. You can expand the system to include more sensors if necessary.

Cost: $399 for a three-piece sensor kit, or $499 for a six-piece set; $69 to $99 a month for monitoring, depending on length of contract. (Photo: Assisted Living Technologies/BeClose)

Related: Does Your Aging Parent Really Need a Walker?


lively sensorsSeniors who are both active and technologically inclined are the best candidates for Lively, a system that incorporates household sensors with a smartwatch. Like the sensors used in BeClose, Lively sensors can be placed anywhere. Activity analysis is provided to the caretaker in the form of daily summaries and configurable real-time alerts.

The wearable component looks similar to the Apple Watch but functions as an all-in-one medication reminder (the watch interfaces with pillbox activity sensors to alert the wearer if he misses a dose), step counter and emergency alert system. It’s water resistant, with a simple interface, easy-to-read display and long-lasting replaceable battery. It can be connected to nearly any 20-millimeter watchband.

If the wearer pushes the emergency button, a live operator will call them to confirm an emergency exists. If it does, the operator will call up to three personal emergency contacts and call professional emergency services if necessary. (He’ll even stay on the line until help arrives). An optional clip-on fall detector is scheduled for release later this year.

Cost: $49.95 for one hub, four sensors and a watch; $27.95 to $34.95 a month for monitoring, depending on length of contract. (Photo: Lively)

Related: When Mom or Dad Stops Eating: Anorexia in the Elderly


Gerijoy If your loved one’s challenges involve mental health issues, GeriJoy can help you provide companionship as well as care.

A tablet computer puts seniors face-to-face with an animated pet that converses with them in real time. A live human operator staffs this avatar 24/7, so the “pet” can ask and answer personalized questions and give proactive, customized health reminders around the clock.

Caregivers interact with the GeriJoy team via an online Family Portal. The portal offers live updates, daily summaries and a way to communicate with staff. Family members can even send photos and news that the pet can present to the user later on.

In this way, GeriJoy provides companionship that can dramatically improve mood and well-being for many older users, especially those with  Alzheimer’s disease. It also gives medical reminders and encouragement specifically related to the user’s conditions.

Cost: Many payment options exist, starting between $166 to $249 a month for a subscription, depending on the length of contract. The price increases if you need a tablet with 4G connectivity. There is no additional up-front charge for the tablet, since the unit is technically rented, not purchased. Once the hardware is returned, you receive a refund in the amount of your last payment. (Photo: AARP/GeriJoy)

Michael Franco is a science and technology writer who secretly wishes he was an astronaut. His work has appeared in CNET, and Discover Magazine.