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New Devices Help Seniors Stay Longer in Their Own Homes
Date:1/18/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors who want to remain in their homes despite illness and infirmity can get a high-tech assist these days.

So can their children who might worry about an elderly parent living alone, often far from family members.

The 1980s-era medical alert pendants made famous by their television advertising ("I've fallen, and I can't get up!") are now among a wide array of devices that can help keep an eye on aging parents and get them help when they need it.

Available technologies include:

  • Sensors in the home to track an older person's movement, from the front door to the medicine cabinet to the refrigerator to the stove. The sensors are linked with computers that can issue alerts when people deviate from their routine.
  • Global positioning system devices, using the GPS technology that's become so common in cars, that can help locate someone with dementia who's wandered from home.
  • Computerized pillboxes that track whether medication is being taken on time.

"The notion behind these technologies is that people stay in their homes with some peace of mind on both their and their families' part," said Elinor Ginzler, AARP's senior vice president for livable communities. "In many cases, sensors are actually placed in various places throughout the older person's home. They are continuously tracking data. More or less all of them are looking for changes in that typical pattern and can note that change and alert responsible parties."

Ginzler gave the example of a "sensor checking to see if the front door is opened to pick up the newspaper every day by a certain time, because that's what Dad does." If he usually gets the paper by 7:30 a.m. and it's now 8:30 a.m., an alert might be sent to his son or daughter letting them know about the deviation in his schedule. They then have the option of calling to check in
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