Wearable technology is nothing new. One of the earliest example is the wrist watch, which has been around for several centuries. Over time, with improvement in technology, this simple device has evolved into today’s smart watch, which can do a lot more than just tell the time. Another example is the in-ear hearing aid, which has been increasing in sophistication since it was introduced in late 1950s.
With advances in technology, fitness and healthcare was one area that saw emergence of wearable devices. In 2009 Fitbit, and then other manufacturers came out with fitness products. Heart or pulse rate, distance walked, periods of activity or inactivity and calories burnt are some of the parameters that can be measured and recorded with a fair degree of accuracy. These parameters can then be analyzed and the results used to manage one’s exercise regimen. And while many of these devices can be used by the elderly, too, the question is whether they have been designed keeping them in mind.
For the elderly, one very important feature is identification of an anomalous condition and raising an alarm if the situation so demands. Here are some wearable devices that do offer such a feature and can be a great help for the elderly.
Preventice BodyGuardian Heart
With increasing age cardiac problems are one of the most common health concerns. The BodyGuardian Heart is one way to continuously monitor the heart condition. It comes with a sensor – a patch that is to be worn on the chest. There are different adhesive and form factors available for the patch to suit different preferences. The sensor communicates wirelessly with a phone carried by the user. Data collected by the sensor is sent to a monitoring centre from the phone.
By providing different measurement modes and multiple parameters, the sensor can collect all the information necessary for monitoring the heart. The data collected is available to the patient’s physicians through the Preventice website. Using the website the physician can set thresholds for notifications for individual patients. Tools available on the website also help the physicians perform a detailed analysis on the collected data.
This is an indoor safety system and activity tracker for the elderly. The user wears a wrist band that contains many sensors, including an emergency button. CarePredict has the concept of Activities of Daily Living (ADL). It uses machine learning techniques to convert sensor and time information into ADLs such as eating, drinking, sleeping etc. Within the indoor setting it can also track the user’s location. Using the database of activities, built up over a period, it can detect deviations that a caregiver may not be able to notice. Small changes like less time spent at meals, change in the sleep patterns can be highlighted. Through the use of predictive analysis, CarePredict can tell where multiple symptoms indicate a more serious problem and alert the caregivers.
Lifestation Medical Alarm
This alarm system from Lifestation is meant to help the elderly in an emergency situation. It consists of a wearable button – either a wrist band or a neck button. When the button is pressed the alarm provides a two way communication with a specialist at the monitoring centre. If the user is unable to speak, notification is sent to emergency services and also to caregivers.
There are variants of the Medical Alarm with differing capabilities. The alarm system can operate either through a landline or the mobile network. A GPS tracking system and a fall detector are among the options offered and these make it suitable for outdoor use, too. In the case of the fall detector, the monitoring centre can be notified automatically if a fall is suspected to have occurred.
Technological improvements over time have let electronics become smaller, lighter and more sophisticated. This has lead to more portable and less obtrusive devices that can really enhance the quality of life of the elderly without becoming inconvenient.