Motion sensors used to monitor the elderly

An article in the Boston Globe looks at motion detection systems, which caregivers are using to monitor the activities of elderly family members while still allowing them to live independently. Demand for these systems should increase as the elderly population grows and more seniors are living independently, the Globe reports.

One system uses sensors which are placed where they can best track a senior's activities—locations such as on the medicine cabinet, the refrigerator or doorways. The sensors use a wireless phone signal to transmit information to a Web site about every five minutes. Caregivers can check the Web site or program the system to send them an e-mail if the senior's movements deviate widely from set parameters, the Globe reports.

"The goal is to keep it minimally intrusive, but alert the family member if there's trouble," said Diane Mahoney of the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged, which is testing the monitoring program. Both parties must consent before the center will install the system, Mahoney said.

New York City-based Living Independently just launched a similar monitoring system, which is available for $60 per month, plus $149 for installation. VisionAge Technologies of California also offers a system that monitors changes in body position and the rate of a fall and impact. It costs $60 per month and $150 for installation.

Another health assistance device is the personal emergency call button, which uses phone lines to call for help when seniors can't reach a phone. However, these are only effective if seniors wear them at all times and are able to push the button, according to the Globe. Video surveillance systems, or "granny cams," are also available, but have raised privacy concerns, the Globe reports (Dembner, Boston Globe, 7/12).

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