My long-suffering mom gets to play guinea pig to all of my technology schemes. This week I may have gone overboard with the installation of Lively. Lively is a system of sensors that communicate with a central control pod to monitor and then alert loved ones about any unusual behavior that their elderly relatives might be experiencing.

Lively sensors

Mom’s $150 starter kit included a command module plus sensors that attached to her keychain, her pill box, and her fridge door. We connected two optional sensors to her coffee pot and her TV chair – two places she frequents.

The Lively sensors monitor moms movement’s, reporting back to command central and providing information to those of us (my brothers and sister) who are on her “caretaking list”. For example, if she doesn’t open the fridge by 10 AM, which is the time we specified, we get notified that something may be amiss.

Weirder still, we can log into a central dashboard and observe mom’s day in quite a bit of detail. The graph below shows each time she left the house during the week and how long she remained away. It works because the key fob sensor knows when it’s not within range of command central. While it doesn’t locate her (the way many personal emergency systems do), it let us know she’s gotten out for a bit of fresh air.

 Lively activity graph

Mom’s food and drink data lets me see when and how often she opened her refrigerator, a good sign that she’s eating. Of course when I puzzled over why was Monday such a busy “fridge day,” the mystery turned out to be the fridge-cleaning housekeeper.

The sweetest part of Lively is something called a LivelyGram that mom gets sent to her by mail twice each month. It’s filled with news and photos from all of us, including the grandkids. You can invite anyone to participate in the LivelyGram circle without having them be a part of the data monitoring experience. For Mom, it’s sort of like a family Facebook without the stress of Facebook.

According to Lively there are 40 million older adults living at home in the U.S., Canada and Europe who want to stay independent. There are 100+ million loved ones that worry about their health and well-being. According to mom, this system is a little creepy, and at $20 a month for the monitoring service and LivelyGram, it’s a bit expensive. We had lots of talks about privacy, too much information and oversharing before we agreed to try the system. But, it turns out even Mom is pretty fascinated by her daily habits and sort of enjoys dissecting the data.

From a technology perspective, Lively has done some really nice things. For one, its cellular based and does not require an Internet connection, which is obviously great for the folks who  don’t have Internet service. You only need the Internet to monitor the activity. Second, it’s really easy to set up the physical components. Mom did it all by herself. She preferred to leave setting up the online Dashboard to me. It was all easy, and just involved me thinking a bit about what my expectations of “normal behavior” were. (Like medication in the AM, for example) .

Of course new products have room for improvement. When you’re notified that something’s amiss via text or email it’s a very general notification. You need to head to the dashboard to find the details.

Lively is an important product. There are many products on the market to let you know when there’s a state of emergency with your aging parents, but this is one of the first that sits there quietly just monitoring daily life. The issues being over monitored and over sensored aren’t going away but Lively’s made some good decisions on how to balance the intrusion with the watchful eye.