Senior citizen

Old people want to age in their own homes, as compared to moving to nursing homes or various other institutions. They want to remain independent and physically active for as long as they can, says an MU research.

With the help of sensors, communication systems, computers and health care services, researchers at the University of Missouri are attempting to keep a check on the health of older adults who live in their own house. This MU research is called the “aging in place” research.

Researchers say that motion sensors placed in the older adult’s houses can monitor any change in physical activity and behavioral pattern. They believe that early recognition of these changes may stimulate health care interventions and thus delay or prevent grave health complications.

The MU researchers accumulated the data from the motion and bed sensors, which is said to have logged information continuously for more than two years. These researchers determined behavior patterns from the accumulated data that could serve as a basis for identification and prediction of emergency health complications, hospitalizations, etc.

Marilyn Rantz, professor in MU Sinclair School of Nursing, says that, “The “aging in place” concept allows older adults to remain in the environment of their choice and receive supportive health services as needed. With this type of care, most people wouldn’t need to relocate to a nursing home. Monitoring sensor patterns is an effective and discreet way to ensure the health and privacy of older adults.”

Rantz says that, “Additional work is underway to establish these health alerts, improve the reliability and accuracy of the sensor network, implement a video sensor network, and refine a Web-based interface to make it even more user friendly and meaningful to health care providers.” He also says that their research aim is to develop automatic alerts that can inform the appropriate authorities in case of any change in the residents’ health conditions, which may in turn lead to early treatment and maybe even prevention of grave health complications.

The MU researchers supposedly are in the midst of enhancing the technology so that they can possibly make this technology available to the various senior adults in the country.

This study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Administration on Aging and the National Science Foundation ITR grant.

The study, “Using Technology to Enhance Aging in Place,” was presented at the 2008 International Conference on Smart homes and health Telematics.