Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Adaptive Lighting improves quality of life for the elderly

"Studies have shown that the quality and type of lighting can have a significant impact in our health and comfort", explains research Edith Maier in Austria.

She is part of a European research team, the Aladin project, that has developed a prototype for lighting that adapts automatically to meet an elderly person's individual need! The person does not have to take any direct action. The technology senses conditions in the person. I really believe that such 'personalized' technology is the wave of the future for the elderly.

What benefits does adaptive lighting offer?
* improves the well-being of people who spend long periods of time in artificially lit buildings
* reduces physiological/psychological problems caused by poor lighting: decreased energy, disrupted sleep, vision problems and reading difficulties

How does this work?
* A person wears biosensors in a glove.
* Heart rate and skin conductance is measured to determine level of activity.
* Measurements are fed wirelessely into a control system.
* The system then knows when to switch between "brightly lit active setting" and "more subdued relaxation mode.

If the person is trying to concentrate on a task, the light will intensify. If they are trying to go to sleep, it will dim. The research team is also experimenting with different intensities and colors of light. The system could eventually be used as part of building management to control lighting, temperature, communications and safety.

The research team expects there will be a large market for technologies that can improve quality of life in the elderly and keep them active and less dependent on others. Think of what it will mean, on a personal basis, to the elderly person.

Source: "Lighting up the Lives of the Elderly",

Friday, February 20, 2009

A day in the life of a volunteer at a nursing home

Wednesdays are my normal days to visit a local nursing home but this week, I ended up going today, Friday.
I often wish that more people would consider donating a couple hours in their week to go and visit with the elderly. For me, it feels like such a natural thing to do. As I approach the building, I really do look forward to seeing everyone, the receptionist, the director/chaplain and the lady I usually visit.

There's a different pace of life there. Yes, people move slowly with their walkers and wheelchairs. But, along with that, comes a patience and a calming atmosphere. There is no rushing. Everyone takes the time to smile, say hello and chat.

Today I arrived to find the lady I normally visit would be leading the monthly Resident Council meeting. She looked so very nice, said she was running a bit late and people would be waiting for her :-)
So, I sat and read to a lovely lady who is in end-stage Alzheimers. She was resting comfortably in a soft chair and she looked very intently at me as I read. Finally her husband came to visit at lunchtime. I'm told he comes everyday.

Being a part of this place for just two hours a week gives me an insight into what seems to be another world. These people are cared for with such love and they care for each other.
I wish everyone could experience the joy of serving at such a place.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

SCAN: New space technology may help the elderly with bone disorders

Space biomedical researchers are developing new technology called SCAN (Scan Cofocal Acoustic Navigation) to diagnose and assist in healing fractures. It's a small mobile device which uses "non-invasive and non-destructive ultrasound to image bones". Although the device was designed to address loss of bone structure and quality in astronauts, there are certainly applications for the elderly.

How is this different from current diagnostic ultrasound scans?
* its ability to assess a high number of parameters
* its ability to image hard tissue like bone

The researchers note that risk of bone fracture is probably more related to quality of the bone, rather than bone density alone (the usual test given the elderly).

At the current time, the device can image the heel or wrist. Scanning of the knee and hip is currently under development. The therapeutic part of the device is what I find most fascinating. It will help accelerate fracture healing by stimulating bone regeneration.
I can't help thinking about Star Trek as I write that last sentence :-)


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Technology-Assisted, Friendly Environment for the Elderly

There is fascinating, innovative technology, TAFETA (Technology-Assisted, Friendly Environment for the Third Age), being created and tested by a Canadian research partnership (Elisabeth Bruyere Research Institute, University of Ottawa and SCO Health Services, and Carleton University).

This partnership created a "smart apartment" in an Ottawa hospital. The apartment, designed to help patients prepare to go home, contains several electronic sensors ("helpers"). As the article states, "there are many lessons that could be translated into private homes".

These electronic "helpers" include:
* A voice that lets you know the refrigerator door has been left opened
* A pressure sensitive mat by the bed turns on a lighted pathway to the bathroom
* A motion detection sensor and timer. If away from bed too long (perhaps due to a fall), an automatic call goes out to emergency service

The research team is also creating software that would track small changes in movement that could be indicative of the start of a stroke or of a weakness predicting a fall and fracture. How about a smell monitor to detect rotting food?

The researchers believe the benefits of such a "smart home" could be "reduced medical costs, accident prevention and early detection of illness". They envision a delivery by components selected to meet specific needs and budgets.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Heat-seeking tool helps save lives of the elderly

Time is of the essence when firefighters respond to a fire and need to ensure they have retrieved everyone from a burning home or building, especially elderly or disabled persons.

Orangeburg, SC firefighters now have a new tool in saving lives.
They have a thermal imaging system based on infrared technology developed for the military. This handheld device can detect heat from any object within a distance of 300 yards.
This kind of range was not possible with older technology.

It can mean a matter of life and death for those elderly trapped by fire.

Yes, the units are expensive, $10,000 each. But,Orangeburg did not pay a cent for the unit. Local insurance broker Keith Hewitt made the donation from a fund aside to "give back to the community".

What a great win-win situation for the community of Orangeburg, SC!


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Retirement Community Goes High Tech

For those of us with loved ones in large independent-living retirement communities surrounded by acres of lovely woods, trails and nature....we love it that our parents have these beautiful surroundings. But, the elderly sometimes ignore warnings and go off by themselves for a walk in the woods. At my mother's community, there have been several residents who have done this and spent quite a bit of time lost in the woods until they are noticed missing. Depending on weather and health, this can be a dangerous situation.
On an everyday basis, residents may need help while walking between buildings or if they feel faint, take a fall, etc.

Finally there is a high tech solution to address this very need.
This is such a great application of technology to aid the elderly. Please read on....

Goodwin House Alexandria (set on 8 acres) now keeps its residents safe and secure with a WI-FI based Real Time Location System (RTLS) and software designed by Healthsense.

What exactly is this system? It includes
1. Standard WI-FI network
2. Wireless nurse call system consisting of 475 pull cords in residences and common areas, and 100 lightweight pendants that residents wear around their necks

How does it work?
1. A resident can be anywhere on the grounds, indoors or outdoors.
2. If he/she needs helps, she activates the pendant or pulls one of the cords.
3. The software tracks the resident's location.
4. An alert is sent out to the WI-FI phones carried by staff
5. The resident is quickly located and helped.

An added benefit:
The WI-FI system provides quick and easy wireless access to the Internet anywhere in the facility.

One resident said, in addition to feeling much safer, he is "delighted they are trail blazers in the technology arena".

To read the complete Press Release,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Test for Deb - Calendar in blog

First option/test:

Here is my test blog entry in which I added in a calendar. This software can't import a Word document, so I copied the calendar, pasted it in MSPaint, and saved the file as .jpg (an image). This is the largest Calendar will show.
Second option/test:
But, I tried the other free blogging software,
Click on the link below; it will take you to my Wordpress blog. I was able to attach the Calendar (Word document). Follow the instructions and it will allow you to view/open the doc in Word.

Success :-)

Third option/test:
02/05/09 ... Deb, here's the best option using Google Calendar