New and innovative technologies can help seniors and people with disabilities live more comfortably and independently.
For example, motion sensors are currently used in some situations to monitor people in order to ensure their health and safety. This article talks about an 86-year-old senior who had back-to-back hospital visits for heart problems. Motion sensors in her bed were used to determine and evaluate her recovery.
Pneumatic tubes were tucked into her mattress and beneath her easy chair to measure weight shifts. In addition, tiny sensors hover unobtrusively over the toilet, shower, and doorways to detect her movements inside the apartment.
Researchers and caregivers at the University of Missouri-Columbia studied the data and note changes in behavior that could signal problems. Unlike the more common medical warning badges worn by some seniors, motion sensors are far less intrusive or cumbersome and their success doesn't depend on the cooperation of patients. University nursing professor, Marilyn Rantz, explained, "Our intent with this project was to incorporate [sensors] into patients’ daily lives—and make them invisible to their daily lives."
As more and more baby boomers make the commitment to age-in-place, high-tech companies are racing to develop practical gadgets that can help aging Americans remain living independently in their own homes.
Several years ago, the International Consumer Electronics Show (ICES) in Las Vegas featured a special section devoted to high-tech senior living for the first time. Among the products showcased at the ICES, were motion sensors—the kind that allowed nurses to figure out what was keeping the above-mentioned senior up at night.
At Oatfield Estates, a private retirement home in Milwaukie, OR, the movements of its residents are tracked by "bed bugs." Actually, these are embedded motion sensors that can detect when someone's behavior might trigger a medical alert.
Other nifty items include “smart carpets” that can alert monitoring agencies if someone has fallen and remains immobile. The ICES also displayed talking pill boxes that remind people to take their medicine at regular intervals. If this doesn’t happen, the boxes can then alert out-of-home relatives and caregivers. There are even robotic companion pets that mimic the real things.
According to Jason Hess, CEO of Elite Care, motion sensors, “smart carpets,” and other tracking devices will be the norm in both private homes and group settings within the next decade. He added, “This will especially be true as insurers start embracing these cost-saving devices.”
Researchers are also fine-tuning a more advanced monitoring system using virtual-reality silhouette images to allow the observation of posture, gait, and other movements. These silhouettes are considered a preferred alternative to more invasive video cameras.
For more information on up and coming high-tech products, visit the website for the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST). CAST is leading the charge to expedite the development, evaluation, and adoption of emerging technologies that can improve the aging-in-place experience.
Use your imagination…what are some technologically-advanced products (realistic or unrealistic) that could help you or your loved ones remain living independently and safely within the comfort of home?
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