Sensors Help Seniors To Live Better

The so-called "silver tsunami" is coming, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. In order to ensure that the coming wave of baby boomers are well taken care of, medical outfitters the world over are working around the clock to crank out new technologies that can keep seniors out of nursing homes longer and independently functional.

Some of the latest concoctions dreamed up by medical device manufacturers involve complex sensor systems that can be embedded into anything from carpet to bed sheets. For example, one Eva Olweea -- an 86-year old gal who was having trouble resting at night -- was cured of her restlessness after sensor-laden sheets informed watchful researchers that excessive bloating was occurring. Once the discovery was made, the appropriate medicines were administered in order to combat the ailment.

Image credit: Georgia Tech

In the near future, homes with seniors will likely be outfitted with legions of tiny sensors in their bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and hallways that can detect movement, temperature and all sorts of other data points. These measurements can be forwarded to a medical staff or remote caregiver in order to provide insight on a person's current condition and surroundings. Such contraptions could alert a child to a fallen parent or inform a dedicated nurse that a senior hasn't traversed a hallway or sat in bed for a given number of hours. Even these snippets of data could give relatives or personnel the ability to act on potential problems that would otherwise go undetected.

Majd Alwan, director of the Washington-based Center for Aging Services Technologies, accurately noted that we're entering an age where a "paradigm shift" is occurring; rather than resorting first to institutionalization, individuals can now allow their loved ones to live independently for a good while longer. And to think -- it's all thanks to tiny detectors that most folks won't even know are there.