Home sensors enable seniors to live independently

Aug 08, 2013 by Miles O'brien
Home sensors enable seniors to live independently
A fire has been set in a three-story building at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, where firefighters hone their skills and test equipment. In this case, they're testing a device they hope will save firefighters' lives. The device is a new type of sensor that can track firefighters' whereabouts deep inside buildings, where standard GPS units often don't work. Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation

People are living longer and they desire to live as independently as possible in their senior years. But, independent lifestyles come with risks, such as debilitating falls and deteriorating health resulting from inadequate care. To address these issues, researchers are developing "smart home" technologies to enhance the safety of residents and monitor their health conditions using sensors and other devices

The unobtrusive monitoring of individuals with in-home sensors offers enormous potential for detecting early health problems—before they become big problems—so timely interventions can be provided to improve the health trajectory. The result is continued high , independence and better . Early detection of health changes is the key to this approach.

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This project leverages ongoing work at the University of Missouri in Health Alert Systems with . The Health Alert System is being tested in senior housing in Columbia, Mo., (with partner, Americare) and Cedar Falls, Iowa, (with partner, Western Home Communities), using for activity monitoring, webcam silhouette images and Kinect depth images for gait analysis, vision and acoustic sensing for fall detection, and a new hydraulic bed sensor that captures quantitative pulse, respiration and restlessness. Pattern recognition algorithms are used to look for changes in the patterns and generate health alerts to clinicians, who provide further diagnosis and determine appropriate interventions.

The usability and effectiveness of the Health Alert System are being evaluated for managing . Testing the Health Alert System at a remote site from the healthcare providers will provide important information about how the approach scales up into other settings. This will provide an important next step towards moving the approach into independent housing where seniors want to be, and offers significant potential healthcare cost savings.

Home sensors enable seniors to live independently
Researchers at Intel Labs located on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are working on a way to take the drudgery out of house work. They are designing a robot named HERB (for Home Exploring Robotic Butler) to be smart and resourceful. Their idea is to create a robot that can walk into a home, assess the layout and move about on its own. Researchers believe senior citizens and the disabled will be the early adopters of robot butlers, since they most need help around the house. Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation

The research will impact the health care and quality of life for older adults. New approaches will assist health care providers to identify potential health problems early, offering a model for eldercare technology that keeps seniors independent while reducing health care costs. The project will train the next generation of researchers to handle real, cyber-physical systems. Students will be mentored by an interdisciplinary team, and research outcomes will be integrated into the classroom.

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