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Sensors, Computers, and Communication Systems Predict Adverse Health Events

“Aging in place” researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) have found that the use of sensors, computers, and communication systems in seniors’ homes leads to earlier identification of healthcare problems and better intervention. As part of the "aging in place" research, integrated sensor networks were installed in the apartments of TigerPlace, a retirement community run by MU that helps senior residents stay healthy and active to prevent hospitalization and relocation.

Over a two-year span, researchers collected data from motion and bed sensors that were used to detect changes in behavior and physical activity. Patterns in the sensor data were then examined and provided clues for predicting adverse health events, including falls, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations.

In recent evaluations, the sensor networks detected changes in residents’ conditions that were not noticed by traditional healthcare measurements. MU researchers are perfecting the technology infrastructure at TigerPlace as a model so that the technologies and supportive healthcare services being designed there can be made available to all seniors.

"The ‘aging in place’ concept allows older adults to remain in the environment of their choice and receive supportive health services as needed,” said Marilyn Rantz, professor, MU Sinclair School of Nursing. “With this type of care, most people wouldn’t need to relocate to a nursing home. Monitoring sensor patterns is an effective and discreet way to ensure the health and privacy of older adults… Our goal is to generate automatic alerts that notify caregivers of changes in residents’ conditions that would allow them to intervene and prevent adverse health events. Additional work is underway to establish these health alerts, improve the reliability and accuracy of the sensor network, implement a video sensor network, and refine a Web-based interface to make it even more user friendly and meaningful to health care providers."

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