Inside look: UC Davis lab testing new technology for aging seniors living alone

“The goal of this research is for individuals to maintain as much independence, for as long as possible.”

As more children become the caretakers of their aging elderly parents, there's new state-of-the-art health technology being developed right now at the University of California Davis Health System.

The aim of the technology is to help more seniors live at home alone, longer.

Dr. Alyssa Weakley is a neuropsychologist at UC Davis, studying dementia. She is also a granddaughter trying to care for her grandmother, who was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Her grandmother lived in Southern California when first diagnosed.

"I wasn't finding solutions that would help her age in place," said Weakley.

So, Weakley created her own solutions for navigating long-distance caregiving for her family, knowing it could help millions of other families.

"The goal of this research is for individuals to maintain as much independence, for as long as possible, with assistance from different technologies that we've been developing," she said.

The researchers use a simulation suite originally built for in-home care nursing students at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

Weakley and engineering colleague Dr. Shijia Pan rigged the rooms with vibration sensors.

"Plug-and-play sensors that you just plug into your wall, and it will be able to capture and analyze your routine based on the vibrations you generate," Pan explained.

The sensors record vibrations in real time so a caregiver in another city or state can watch from their home.

The cameras and microphones are only for research, so students can tell which vibrations go with which activity. They won't be placed in seniors' homes, giving them their privacy.

Pan said the movement is recorded and data collected when someone walks, loses balance, falls, brushes their teeth, takes their medicine or cooks.

They said it's technology that will give seniors the independence they want to keep as they age.

"It's truly designed for people with cognitive impairment, as well as caregivers," Weakley said.

It will also reassure family members their loved one is safe and healthy.

The doctors hope their technology will eventually be built into new homes and assisted living facilities for seniors and could be purchased for individual families.

Pan said she was already developing the vibration sensors for cracks in structures, when someone walked by during her research. She said the sensors picked up the person's movement, including using the restroom and not washing their hands.

Weakley approached her engineering colleague when looking for solutions for long-distance caretaking.

The researchers are also looking for study participants to help test the technology.

If interested, click here.

The school secured a $900,000 NIH grant and another $60,000 From the CITRIS Banato Institute. As a researcher in UC Davis’ Healthy Aging in a Digital World, Weakley's worked with older adults and their caregivers to create the Interactive-CARE platform, a system that meets the needs of people who may not ‘get’ technology or who have cognitive challenges.

The researchers hope additional grant funding and donor support to the Healthy Aging in a Digital World initiative will ultimately bring the solution to market.

Via KCRA 3

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