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Sensors Help Keep the Elderly Safe, and at Home

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Sensors and other monitoring technologies offer senior citizens more freedom to live independently and at less risk within the home. Motion sensors, medication reminder systems linked to mobile phones, pill compliance detectors, and wireless devices that transmit data on blood pressure and other physiological indicators are just some of the tools being used. These systems can be less costly than assisted living and nursing home care.

One objective of personal health monitoring is to spur people to enhance their health by changing their behavior with the knowledge that they are being observed. However, the technologies are largely untested and are not usually covered by the government or private insurance plans. Moreover, there is the danger that the technologies could substitute for one-on-one interaction between seniors and their physicians, nurses, and relatives. "It's not that we need new technologies," says Dr. Jeffrey Kaye with the Oregon Health and Science University. "We need to use what we have more creatively."

Monitoring technologies can gather terabytes of data, and researchers are working on ways of analyzing that information to help the well-being of users. For example, Kaye is working with Intel on a program that analyzes the motion data of seniors for patterns that would point to the onset of dementia well before it could be diagnosed with cognitive tests.

From The New York Times

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