Editorial Feature

Sensors and the Aging Population: What Does the Future Hold?

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According to a recent study by AARP, 76% of Americans aged over 50 expressed their preference for remaining in their current home as they become older. However, in the same study, only 46% believed that this would be possible for them. IoT-enabled sensors could help those 46% stay at home for longer.

Baby Boomers and the Internet of Things

Our senior friends and relatives are a part of the largest living generation on Earth today – the so-called Baby Boomers. This generation came of age alongside the sudden and rapid rise of widespread information technology and automation. They value freedom and independence, especially as they become older.

However, as we become older, our care needs invariably change. The Internet of Things (IoT) – the next step in connecting the world through digital technology, a process that began with the Baby Boomer generation in the second half of the 20th century – could hold the key to enabling older people to stay safe, healthy and independent for longer.

SECURELY: IoT Sensors and Wearable IoT-Connected Technology

New-Zealand-based SECURELY provides a range of “smart” products designed to help older people and their families, friends, caregivers and other medical professionals to monitor and manage elderly care.

SECURELY provides unobtrusive IoT-enabled sensors that use infrared imaging to automatically monitor residents’ movements in the home.

When a resident behaves unusually, for example by not going to the bathroom or using the kitchen for longer than normal, or not going to or getting out of bed, the IoT sensor provided by SECURELY “notices” through the use of a proprietary algorithm that makes sense out of the vast amounts of data gathered in this passive way.

Read more: Infrared sensors available on the market today

The connected smartphone app – which family and caregivers can install – can then alert anybody who needs to be aware of a change in the older person’s behaviors. This helps older people and their caregivers to take control and manage their day-to-day health and wellbeing.

SECURELY also provides wearable IoT-connected technology for older people. Pendants and watches with motion sensors built into them can detect when an older person has taken a fall.

With the average amount of time between an older person falling and being found in New Zealand at 12 hours, this kind of immediate alert can easily save lives, as well as provide reassurance to older people and their loved ones.

SECURELY - the new generation of medical alarms

Video Credit: SECURELY/YouTube.com

Elderly Care with IoT Technology

Industry commentators agree that IoT can revolutionize elderly care at a time when a technological revolution is becoming more necessary than ever. As mentioned, the largest living generation on the planet is aging, and numerous applications currently are being implemented.

SECURELY’s IoT-sensors monitor residents’ movement through the home with infrared imaging. The smart devices are connected through the Internet to automatic monitoring systems, as well as directly to family and caregivers through their phones. Alerts can be customized so that the system and the people involved fully support the older person’s needs.

Wearable IoT-connected technology such as SECURELY’s pendants is especially helpful when it comes to falls. IoT-enabled sensors that are always on the older person’s body – in a pendant or a watch, for example – monitor all movements and can detect not only falls but also fits and seizures.

Even heart attacks and strokes can be avoided through early-warning prevention systems with wearable IoT-enabled sensors that come equipped with medical sensing (pulse and breathing).

IoT-sensors are also useful in managing dementia while enabling older people to remain living independently in their own homes. IoT-connected sensors track the residents’ movement and alert medical professionals if they get lost or do not follow a usual routine.

The Smart Home can also help with self-care, by reminding older people to take medication, eat or drink, or manage their daily routine. Alerts can even be transmitted directly into smart hearing aids to help people with hearing impairment.

Older people benefit from voice control functions in many smart devices. This means that the features of their IoT-enabled sensors and wearable IoT-connected technology are more accessible, giving older people more freedom to manage their health and wellbeing.

Beyond IoT-Sensors and Wearable IoT-connected Technology

The IoT’s wider applications – especially the so-called Smart Home – will help older people and the rest of the population to save time and effort by automating many of the tasks of running a household. For older people, this means many more years are possible in their own homes independently.

The automatic features of a smart home include self-maintaining technology, which uses IoT-sensors to detect faults and schedule regular maintenance. In life-supporting technology that older people may need in their homes, this can be life-saving.

The ambient features that make a home comfortable can all be automated. Lighting, heating, air conditioning, hi-fi systems and entertainment are all becoming “smart”. Central management hubs, which are accessible on residents’ smartphones or through any Internet-enabled device, can easily optimize the home’s comfort.

Household groceries and utilities can also now be largely automated with the use of IoT-enabled devices, for example, robot vacuum cleaners, fridges that automatically order new items when they are low on stock, and automatic laundry cycles.

Smart Healthcare

IoT-enabled sensors, wearable IoT-connected devices, and other aspects of the IoT mentioned in this article are all considered a part of the rising Internet of Medical Things or Smart Healthcare.

SECURELY is well-positioned to ensure the IoT is leveraged to improve the quality of life and health for as many people as possible in the future.

References and Further Reading

Aburukba, Raafat, A. R. Al-Ali, Nourhan Kandil, and Diala AbuDamis (2016). “Configurable ZigBee-Based Control System for People with Multiple Disabilities in Smart Homes.” 2016 International Conference on Industrial Informatics and Computer Systems (CIICS). https://doi.org/10.1109/iccsii.2016.7462435.

Binette, Joanne and Kerri Vasold (2018). Home and Community Preferences: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus. AARP Research.  https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00231.001.

Dey, Nilanjan, Aboul Ella Hassanien, Chintan Bhatt, Amira S. Ashour, and Suresh Chandra Satapathy, eds. (2018). Internet of Things and Big Data Analytics: Toward Next-Generation Intelligence. Studies in Big Data. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-60435-0.

Gatouillat, Arthur, Youakim Badr, Bertrand Massot, and Ervin Sejdic (2018). “Internet of Medical Things: A Review of Recent Contributions Dealing With Cyber-Physical Systems in Medicine.” IEEE Internet of Things Journal. https://doi.org/10.1109/jiot.2018.2849014.

Hensel, B. K., and G. Demiris (2008). “Technologies for an Aging Society: A Systematic Review of ‘Smart Home’ Applications.” Yearbook of Medical Informatics. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0038-1638580.

IOA (2019). Information on Senior Citizens Living in America. Institute on Aging. https://www.ioaging.org/aging-in-america

Mulvenna, Maurice, Anton Hutton, Vivien Coates, Suzanne Martin, Stephen Todd, Raymond Bond, and Anne Moorhead (2017). “Views of Caregivers on the Ethics of Assistive Technology Used for Home Surveillance of People Living with Dementia.” Neuroethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12152-017-9305-z.

NCOA (2018). Falls Prevention Facts. NCOA. https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/.

Rantz, Marilyn, Lorraine J. Phillips, Colleen Galambos, Kari Lane, Gregory L. Alexander, Laurel Despins, Richelle J. Koopman, et al. (2017). “Randomized Trial of Intelligent Sensor System for Early Illness Alerts in Senior Housing.” Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2017.05.012.

SECURELY (2020). Sensors & AI. Securely NZ. https://securely.nz/

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Ben Pilkington

Written by

Ben Pilkington

Ben Pilkington is a freelance writer who is interested in society and technology. He enjoys learning how the latest scientific developments can affect us and imagining what will be possible in the future. Since completing graduate studies at Oxford University in 2016, Ben has reported on developments in computer software, the UK technology industry, digital rights and privacy, industrial automation, IoT, AI, additive manufacturing, sustainability, and clean technology.


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