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AEDs and the Elderly: What to Consider

AEDs and the Elderly: What to Consider

In the previous three decades, the population of the world has been aging at a great rate due to the decline in fertility and the rise in life expectancy, and that trend is expected to further accelerate in the following years. There is an increase in the percentage of the world’s elderly population, and accordingly, cardiac arrest is becoming a more frequent occurrence in this demographic group.

The survival rate for out-of-the-hospital cardiac arrest is declining with the increase in age, and it ranges from 0% to 11,1% for the elderly over the age of 70. That is why the need for widespread use of life-saving devices, such as automated external defibrillators (AEDs), is more present than ever before, especially with the elderly population.

What are AEDs?

Automated external defibrillators or AEDs are portable medical devices that can be used to help save the lives of people who experience sudden cardiac arrest and are particularly important for the elderly that have heart diseases or age-related illnesses.

A cardiac arrest is a condition that occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating, which may arise from an electrical problem in the heart. It can frequently happen out of the hospital, where no medical help is available. AEDs are devices intended to deliver a shock to the heart and restore its normal rhythm when there are electrical malfunctions.

AEDs as a Public Safety Precaution

Due to safety reasons, AEDs can often be found in many public places, such as airports, shopping malls, schools, and sports stadiums, ready and available in the event of an emergency, such as a cardiac arrest. In addition, many workplaces, housing complexes, recreational facilities, and public facilities are required by law to have AEDs on hand for increased safety.

Some studies have shown that early defibrillation with an AED can significantly improve the chances of survival for someone experiencing sudden out-of-the-hospital cardiac arrest. More specifically, the survival rate without AEDs was 9% and 38% with delivery of AED shock. AEDs are particularly applicable for elderly care and as a safety measure, as the survival rate is lower for the elderly than for younger generations. So, having a portable life-saver device on hand should be part of any preventive program.

AEDs and the Elderly: Why Are They Necessary?

The American Heart Association recommends that AEDs be used as soon as possible for individuals who experience sudden cardiac arrest, ideally within three to five minutes of the victim’s collapse. In addition, AHA has set early defibrillation as a high-priority goal.

Older adults bear a higher risk of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, so having access to AEDs in public places such as retirement homes or community centers can significantly increase their chances of survival in an emergency. Overall, the availability of AEDs can provide elderly people with greater peace of mind, increased safety and daily quality of life.

Can the Elderly Use AEDs?

The life-saving AEDs are very useful for elderly care because, besides the fact that AEDs are portable, they are sophisticated, simple, and easy to use, with clear instructions and voice prompts that guide the user through defibrillation. When an elderly person collapses from a sudden cardiac arrest, every second counts and AEDs can be a crucial help agent in providing timely assistance before the emergency medical team arrives.

AEDs are not made to be operated only by trained medical professionals. On the contrary, they can be used by anyone with minimal AEDs training, even the elderly, which is one of the biggest advantages of these life-saving devices. The results from a study from the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington showed that seniors could be trained to operate AEDs with both video-based self-instruction and face-to-face instruction.

AEDs and the Elderly: Benefits

AEDs have been proven to be beneficial in providing life-saving elderly care in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest, and here is a comprehensive list of some of the benefits of AEDs for the elderly:

    • Increased Rate of Survival: The use of AEDs can significantly improve the survival rates of elderly people who experience sudden cardiac arrest because early defibrillation is sometimes a life-saver. Given that cardiac arrest, as well as other heart diseases, are frequent causes of death among the elderly, owning AEDs can be crucial in emergencies.

    • Simple and Easy to Use: AEDs can be used easily by anyone with basic AED training. They also come with a step-by-step guide with voice or visual recordings that lead the user through the process needed to deliver a shock. This ensures that even in a high-stress situation, individuals can use an AED effectively to help save the life of an elderly person.

    • Timely Responsiveness: AEDs are aimed toward fast response, as time is of the essence during cardiac arrest. The quicker an AED can be used, the higher the chances of the victim’s survival. With an AED, the time to defibrillation can be significantly reduced, allowing for faster response times and better outcomes.

    • Improved Quality of Life: AEDs can help improve the quality of life of the elderly who survive a cardiac arrest because a timely reaction and treatment with an AED can prevent further damage to the heart and brain. Cerebral hypoxia can lead to long-term health problems and acceleration of age-related illnesses. With that, AEDs can also help prevent the need for long-term elderly care or rehabilitation and similar services, which can be costly and time-consuming.

    • Increased Confidence: For elderly individuals with heart diseases, pacemakers, age-related illnesses, or a history of heart problems, having AEDs available at hand can increase their confidence level and ensure their safety. Knowing that they have access to protective equipment can help them feel more secure and empowered.

What to Consider When Buying AEDs?

The AEDs are quite self-explanatory. However, there are a couple of things to consider before heading out to buy a portable AED to increase the safety of your home.

Automatic and Semi-Automatic AED

There are two general types of AEDs for personal use to choose from. The automatic AED carries out the action without the need for human intervention. It will sense irregularities in the heart rhythm and deliver shocks at a prearranged power. The semi-automatic AED needs the user to start the process by pressing a button to save the cardiac arrest victim.

Suitable for Adults and the Elderly or Pediatric AED

When choosing a defibrillator, you should always check whether it is suited for adults and elderly individuals or if it’s a pediatric unit. The adult shock levels of the AEDs differ from those of the pediatric ones. If the AED is needed to provide the safety of adults and the elderly, the users should always make sure that it is an adult-specific device and not a pediatric-specific one intended for children’s care.


The nature of emergencies is very stressful, and many times it can be chaotic especially for the elderly. Hence choosing an AED that comes with clear instructions and is easy to use is critical. AEDs are typically similar, but they do have some differences in how they work, so bear in mind the functionality of the device, the features such as voice or visual guides, available languages, integrated Wi-Fi connectivity, automated or semi-automated features, and also the status indicator to ensure the AED is ready to use in an emergency.


Choosing an AED that has simple maintenance is important. Buy an AED unit that includes self-monitoring and can notify you if there is something wrong with the device or if it needs a service, repairs, or software updates. The user manual usually includes these types of information, so it’s a good idea to go through it and instruct the elderly person. Note that reputable brands also tend to provide good maintenance warranties.


AEDs are incredibly useful portable medical devices that can help save lives in the event of sudden cardiac arrest, especially for the elderly. With their ease of use and widespread availability, anyone can use AEDs to provide timely assistance before emergency medical services arrive.

By delivering a shock to the heart to restore its normal rhythm, AEDs can significantly improve the chances of survival for elderly individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest and their quality of life after the event.

Having an AED on hand in places such as nursing homes, senior centers, retirement communities, or homes where there is an elderly member can be a valuable investment for increased health and well-being of the elderly population.