Picking out clothes to wear, eating healthy meals, taking medications and doing exercises are important activities for seniors living independently. “Social robots” are being developed to help those with mild cognitive impairments carry out these and other daily tasks at home.
“These robots give feedback and reminders, they monitor skills and abilities and they provide stimulation,” says Goldie Nejat, a project co-lead with AGE-WELL who holds the Canada Research Chair in Robots for Society at the University of Toronto. She says the robots, being developed with industrial partner CrossWing Inc. and collaborators in Quebec, could be on the market in two to five years.
Other technologies to support aging in place being created by AGE-WELL researchers include:
A night-time wandering detection system for people with dementia that uses pressure-sensitive mats placed under a bed mattress, as well as special lighting and prompts, to detect people’s movements when they get out of bed and encourage them to return to sleep. “Smart beds” can also track how much someone moves during their sleep. They are being tested as a way to detect risk of pressure sores, identify pain and monitor conditions such as sleep apnea.
An intelligent emergency response system that uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to “learn” a person’s habits and determine when something has gone wrong. The system can interact with the person and either contact a caregiver or call 911.
Sensors that can signal an older adult to turn off the stove or close the fridge door. These sensors, and the pressure-sensitive mats described above, are being developed by SAM3, a joint initiative of AGE-WELL, Bruyère Research Institute and Carleton University.
Sensors embedded in floors that can detect a person’s blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs and provide warnings if there are changes.
Dr. Alex Mihailidis, scientific director of AGE-WELL, says that these technologies “promote aging in place and allow us to predict problems before they actually occur, so that interventions can happen as quickly as possible.”
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