Tech Tools Let Seniors to Stay in Their Homes

The view from Al Bailey's Portland, Ore., home is enough to make you green with envy. Though 90-years-old, he lives independently in the same house he's owned for nearly 30 years.

"I feel very fortunate and I enjoy it," he said. "I have wonderful neighbors and I enjoy the view."

His kids live nearby and visit often, but they still worry about their dad being on his own.

"It is a concern for all of us with older people in our family, to be able to stay in touch with them when we live across town," said Bailey's son Bill.

This is a familiar struggle for some 20 million baby boomers who are sandwiched between the demands of their jobs and children, all while caring for their parents.

A new technology hopes to ease their burden.

Watch ABC News broadcasts and read USA Today this week for reports in the series, "Role Reversal: Your Aging Parents and You."

There are now sensors that can detect movements, telling how fast and how well a person gets around. They can act as a set of eyes to allow caregivers to check in on an elderly loved one when they can't be there in person.

"It's almost a little bit like big brother," Bill Bailey said. "But when you think of it, it's really useful to be able to see how someone is getting along and gather that sort of information."

It's the brainchild of the Oregon Center Of Aging And Technology, or ORCATECH. There, researchers develop crafty gadgets to make life easier for seniors.

For instance, a cane can send out an alert if the owner forgets to grab it. And for those taking medicine, there is the smart pillbox, which shows up on a monitor when pills have been taken. There is even a wristwatch which gives a gentle reminder to take medication.

"What ORCATECH ultimately would like to do is have the information that goes on all the time, go to the people who can help the people stay there," said Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, of ORCATECH.

It's called "aging in place." Seniors can live on their own, rather than going to a nursing home or moving in with an adult child who may live thousands of miles away.