Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Gerontechnology": the cutting edge of eldercare

Imagine:
• You have a chronic, life-threatening condition. The undershirt you wear monitors your heart rate, EKG, respiration and temperature, then alerts your doctor if there's a problem. This means you're able to continue living independently at home.
• An assisted-living facility combines pets, plants and live-in caregivers with residents who have advanced Alzheimer's. Rather than lock the doors to prevent residents from wandering away, the facility allows them to move around freely, thanks to tiny sensors that track each resident's movements. Residents' families monitor what's happening via their home computers, even from thousands of miles away.
• An 89-year-old woman with Alzheimer's lives at home for years beyond the norm because of a friendly voice that reminds her to brush her teeth (and how, if necessary), put her slip on before her dress, and take the frying pan off the stove if she forgets. Thus her 93-year-old husband is spared much of the exhaustion and health problems that are common when caring for a demented spouse.
Sound far-fetched? The reality is that these ideas — and many others — already exist or are on the drawing boards, spinning out of the laboratories and imaginations of a new kind of inventor — what one source calls "gerontechnologists" — whose purpose is to unleash the power of ubiquitous computing and turn high-tech research into new ways to care for frail older adults.
It comes in the nick of time. MORE…

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