MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Try as we might to fight the inevitable, we all get older. So, we should all be a bit wiser when it comes to dealing with the aging process. We all want to stay independent as long as possible. At the Minnesota State Fair, the Wiser Living 2014 exhibit aims to help us do just that.

This year, the exhibit – located in front of the 4-H Building — has doubled in size and features a lot more technology. That’s good, because our elderly population is growing dramatically, too.

“Growing older … the idea is to maximize how long we can stay in our house,” co-founder of Wiser Living Michelle Witte said. “So, when you look at the aging demographics, in the next 10 years we’re going to double the amount of people over age 65. So, people really need to make their houses work for them.”

Moving around the house when you get older is tricky. For example, getting things out of shelves and getting into the shower are much more difficult. So new companies featured at the exhibit, like Help Your Shelves and ReBath, help remodel homes for the long-term.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Seniors who use wheelchairs can more easily communicate and engage with the innovative i-Can — a wheelchair that comes with it’s own lift.

“If you want to be in the conversation, you can lift it up,” Witte said. “They’ve taken technology that they use to raise toppers on cars, etc. and apply it to the wheelchair.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Other tech includes home monitoring, which helps the children of elderly parents stay in touch.

“The Lutheran Home Association, who just got a huge grant, has what’s called remote sensing … that assesses your normal routine,” Witte said. “So, [for example], it might say dad got out of bed last night 13 times, so that’ll be a queue that something’s not going so well. Or the refrigerator hasn’t been opened in two days, so what’s going on. So it’s a great way to help assess without video.”

Since falling is a major concern for the elderly, one of the really cool things at the exhibit is called the NeuroCom machine, which helps determine balance.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“The machine, which was developed with NASA for NASA astronauts, assesses how balanced you might be. If you have balance issues, it finds out the problems. Maybe it’s strength, maybe it’s vision, maybe vestibular,” Witte said. “So, we have all these things that people just don’t know about.”

As the picture below shows, I had the opportunity to try out the machine. During the assessment conducted by Saint Therese of New Hope, you take certain tests with your eyes open for some and closed for others. The platform you stand on can move, as well as the surrounding walls. Its purpose is to isolate problematic areas of our senses (somatosensory, visual and vestibular to be exact). I scored well in comparison to people 60-69 years of age, of course, but they did say I put more pressure on my heels. For an elderly person, that could mean a higher chance of falling backward.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The aging process comes with a hefty price tag, but there are things to be done. Witte shared a few thoughts.

“First of all, the most affordable thing is prevention. So, understanding balance, being strong and learning what you can do to prevent falls is a really important thing happening in the senior movement right now.

“A lot of these featured companies are great at helping people maximize your current living situation. It can cost, you know, $3,000 to $5,000, to live in an assisted living environment … the idea is to stay in your own home as long as you can. That will [help you] keep your dollars for when you’re really going to need them.

“The other thing is Aging Services of Minnesota is a partner with the exhibit and they have what’s called a Confident Choices seal – like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval – for senior housing. So there are those systems that evaluate and help you make good choices about what’s the most affordable care out there.”

Finally, what does it take to age successfully? Devour information.

“We just have to remain lifetime learners. Be curious and persevere. Ask questions and find out what the resources are out there. Senior LinkAge Line (1-800-333-2433) is great service in Minnesota. So, just plan ahead. Get the information ahead, so when you need it, you know what’s out there,” Witte said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

For more information on the Wiser Living exhibit and all the businesses they feature, click here.

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