The British government is hard at work dreaming up ways to use technology to help the elderly. Some of the ideas it has come up with are a bit strange, to say the least. One of the quirky ideas is to add turn-by-turn directions to shopping carts.
Apparently, the idea behind the project is to allow elderly patients currently confined to nursing homes with conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer's, the ability to go out into the world and explore, completing life tasks. Shopping is one such daunting task, which would be extremely confusing to such individuals due to the plethora of products assailing the senses, and the narrow, sometimes maze-like aisles. The new system uses a mobile phone, tied to GPS.
Newcastle University, which along with Aberdeen and Nottingham universities is conducting the research projects, also is testing a device that tracks lost elderly with mental conditions. Professor Paul Watson, of Newcastle University comments, "Many older people lack the confidence to maintain ‘normal’ walking habits. This is often due to worries about getting lost in unfamiliar, new or changing environments."
Best of all, the new gadgets are designed to preserve the self-esteem of the elderly -- they are described by the researchers as "unobtrusive".
Professor Watson has also dreamed up a sensor-rich kitchen to help elderly patients with dementia. In the kitchen, every cupboard door, appliance and utensil has sensors and/or RFID tags built into it. They track the user's actions. If the central processor thinks the person is becoming confused, it projects reminders onto the kitchen wall, cuing them to what they should be doing.
The setup could be coming to homes in five years, says Professor Watson. He states, "This is for people starting to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease who may get half way through cooking a meal or making a cup of tea but who then get stuck. There are sensors in the utensils and floor so it knows when people are cutting vegetables or using the kettle. It is designed to learn people’s behaviour and spot when something unusual has happened - then prompt them. The idea is to put it into your own home. The cost will be hundreds of pounds - and it will save on the costs of sheltered accommodation."
The setup has pressure pads on the floor to determine where the person is standing and what way they are facing. The central computing unit is hidden in one of the cupboards.
Professor Watson and his fellow researchers have also completed a home health kit that collects vital signs, including heartbeat, temperature and breathing rates, and sends them wirelessly to a doctor's office.