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High-Tech Sensors Help Kids Keep Eye on Aging ParentsBy

Posted by on May. 5, 2015 at 11:15 PM
  • 6 Replies
High-Tech Sensors Help Kids Keep Eye on Aging ParentsBy BRANDON BAILEY AP Technology WriterMay 5, 2015, 10:20 AM

SAN FRANCISCO — Each time 81-year-old Bill Dworsky or his 80-year-old wife Dorothy opens the refrigerator, closes the bathroom door or lifts the lid on a pill container, tiny sensors in their San Francisco home make notes on a digital logbook.

The couple's 53-year-old son, Phil, checks it daily on his smartphone. If there's no activity during a designated time, the younger Dworsky gets an automated email, so he can decide whether to call or stop by. "This is peace of mind, really," he says of the system he installed last year.

The Silicon Valley tech executive lives just across town, but the sensors help him keep an eye on his aging parents while also raising a teenage daughter and frequently traveling for work. While his parents don't need a lot of assistance, they have stopped driving and his father uses a cane.

"I want to be in the position where I will know when I need to step in," he says.

Advances in low-cost sensors and wireless networks are fueling a boom in the so-called "smart" home. And companies are looking beyond home security and temperature control to creating products for Baby Boomers trying to balance caring for aging parents and respecting their independence. It's a new twist on the notion of personal alarms, such as the Life Alert system that gained popularity with "Help, I've fallen and can't get up" advertisements.

These systems often use simple, inexpensive components such as accelerometers that know when an object is moved. Others use small power sensors to track electricity use or contact circuits that tell when a door is open or closed. Companies like Lively, Evermind and BeClose charge $50 to $300 for a set of sensors and $30 to $70 a month for wireless monitoring. Each promises to safeguard clients' personal information.

A set of motion sensors from San Francisco-based Lively seemed right for the Dworskys, whose son calls them "fiercely independent." Before hearing about Lively, Phil had raised the idea of a webcam in their home. "They immediately didn't want it. It was a privacy violation," he said. But they agreed to sensors that collect "a more limited set of information."

Dorothy doesn't think much about the system tracking her daily routine. "It's un-intrusive. That's what we like about it," she said. "We want to be able to stay in our home, and this is one way that makes it possible."

Electronic tracking does raise issues around dignity and privacy, says Dr. Christine Ritchie, a geriatrics professor at the University of California, San Francisco. She believes some concerns will diminish as more people get used to using fitness bands, "smart" thermostats and other gadgets that track their daily lives, though. And independence is attractive.

"Many of my older patients would be totally unenthusiastic about having anyone monitor any part of their life," says Ritchie. "But some would be grateful for the prospect of continuing to live in their own home, rather than an institution where they have less control."

Michigan resident Vicki White, 62, was taken aback when her daughter, who lives in Florida, suggested an Evermind system that uses power sensors to track how often appliances such as coffee makers, lamps or televisions are used. White's health is good, but she lives in a rural area without close neighbors. White's own mother had lived alone and struggled with Alzheimer's disease that wasn't detected right away.

"I thought maybe she thought I was flipping out," White says of her daughter, 42-year-old Melanie Champion. "She explained that she just wanted to know I was OK and my routine was as it should be. It's actually very comforting because I know she's concerned."

An app on Champion's smartphone shows when her mother starts her coffee pot in the morning and when she turns off the TV before going to bed at night.

"It's really nice, except she wants to lecture me about how late I stay up at night," White laughs. "I have to reassure her that I fell asleep on the couch."

Before installing sensors, seniors and their families should have a frank talk about privacy and how much help they need, say experts.

"This type of technology can help, but it's not the only answer or solution," says Lynn Friss Feinberg of the American Association of Retired Persons. "Older adults need conversation, social engagement and access to a range of supportive services. And hugs."



http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/high-tech-sensors-kids-eye-aging-parents-30812408
by on May. 5, 2015 at 11:15 PM
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Replies (1-6):
TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on May. 5, 2015 at 11:25 PM
That's pretty cool. I could have used that when my mom was able to go back home from my house.
gdiamante
by Gold Member on May. 5, 2015 at 11:34 PM

My maternal grandmother lived with my parents, and something like this could have helped to monitor her when they were both at work. And my other grandmother had a habit of wandering late at night. Some kind of monitoring or alarm system would probably have kept her from getting out of my aunt's house. Apparently one night she did get out and wandered the street. The police picked her up and went door to door at 3 AM, asking everyone, "Does this woman belong to you?"

LGA1165
by on May. 5, 2015 at 11:37 PM
That would be excellent for those whose parent has Alzheimer's .
Lady_Facetious
by Gold Member on May. 5, 2015 at 11:41 PM
Obviously the people being monitored would have to be cool with it. I would be concerned about the site security but I think it's a great tool to help keep elderly (or disabled) people independent as well as maintaining a safety net for them.

Quoting TranquilMind: That's pretty cool. I could have used that when my mom was able to go back home from my house.
Lady_Facetious
by Gold Member on May. 5, 2015 at 11:48 PM
My great grandmother lived with us when I was young and she would take off on long walks at any hour of the day because she felt like it. She was mentally sound but stubborn as all get out.

Quoting gdiamante:

My maternal grandmother lived with my parents, and something like this could have helped to monitor her when they were both at work. And my other grandmother had a habit of wandering late at night. Some kind of monitoring or alarm system would probably have kept her from getting out of my aunt's house. Apparently one night she did get out and wandered the street. The police picked her up and went door to door at 3 AM, asking everyone, "Does this woman belong to you?"

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on May. 5, 2015 at 11:48 PM
You are right about the site security.

Quoting Lady_Facetious: Obviously the people being monitored would have to be cool with it. I would be concerned about the site security but I think it's a great tool to help keep elderly (or disabled) people independent as well as maintaining a safety net for them.

Quoting TranquilMind: That's pretty cool. I could have used that when my mom was able to go back home from my house.
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