Technology can keep seniors safe Sensors monitor: They can check
vitals, gait and medication, taking and send alerts when needed
By Dan Levitt, Special to the Vancouver Sun, originally published April 4, 2015
Cover photo from Tabor Village.[excerpt] Rose is an 80-year-old with congestive heart failure and diabetes. She is
able to safely live independently at home thanks to sensor technology that
monitors changes in her health status, reducing the visits to the doctor’s
office. Data recorded from the sensors alert her family and care team when
support is needed. All of the sensors work together without Rose needing to
do anything to activate them.
When she wakes up, a signal is sent from her bed’s pressure sensor to a
personalized health assessment program via Wi-Fi. She then walks down the
hallway, where sensors in the wall near the floor measure her gait and
assess risk of falling. As she brushes her teeth, sensors in the bathroom
floor monitor pressure points in her feet, measure her weight and detect
early signs of skin breakdown and ulcers. A patch on her arm monitors
biometric indicators such as blood pressure, glucose level, blood oxygen
concentration, and heart rate. A medication reminder system alerts her when
it is time to take her morning pills, including her diuretic capsule which
has a tiny sensor that communicates with her arm patch to confirm she has
taken her medication.
The signals from all the sensors are tied into an electronic personal health
record that she can monitor, as well as her daughter and health-care team.
If any of the health-measurements signals fall outside the predetermined
acceptable range for Rose, the data is sent to her physician and her
daughter for follow up. At the same time, alerts are sent to her smartphone
and computer monitor for changes to medication and to watch salt intake.
This technology will enable seniors to live independently, receiving more
personalized care from their care team and living healthier lives on their
While the robots with artificial intelligence attract the imagination of
forward-thinking computer scientists, no technology can replace human
interactions. We don’t need a social psychologist to tell us that family and
friends who are connected and concerned about a senior’s well-being stretch
out independence, redefining our perception of old age. The technology is
out there. We just need to apply it to seniors’ settings, thereby supporting
independence, creating connections, and providing piece of mind. As
gerontechnology becomes more available, the quality of life improvements
will have groundbreaking impacts into the later stages of aging.
Dan Levitt is executive director of Tabor Village and adjunct professor in
the gerontology department at Simon Fraser University.