How Home Architecture Can Help Seniors Live Healthier

Sensor technologies that work within a home can be integrated to find patterns in the routines of daily living for the elderly. Such sensing technologies would send an alert if they notice an interruption in patterns — thus, helping to keep seniors on their goal toward healthy living. (1)

I suppose the main idea behind this use of sensing technology is to make the sensing network seamlessly fade into the background of household living. Without having to push an alert button, make an emergency phone call, or be the subject of surveillance — seniors can go about their lives living more independently and perhaps confidently. (1)

The challenge with such a system resides in determining what senior behavioral patterns to watch. For example, a senior may want to break with routine on a particular day without sounding an alarm. Perhaps it is best for such systems to sense patterns in behaviors like medication intake, daily grooming, or restroom usage — things that must happen when a senior is living at home. However, it remains to be seen as to whether seniors would want such sensing technologies to track these daily routine activities.

Perhaps if a senior wants to live independently, then this could be a way to do it in the future. After all, they may not mind a sensing system tracking their daily routine if it means that they get to live in their own home for more years.

To push this idea a step further — I wonder what would happen if such sensing technologies used the patterns they detect to actually help seniors with their everyday tasks, activities, and behaviors. Might the sensing technologies be able to do more than send an alert to those emergency workers waiting to help? Perhaps the system could help seniors by sending them friendly reminders, inspirational messages to lift their spirits or motivate them to exercise, eat healthy, or to go outside for some fresh air.

In the end, a more responsive architecture can help seniors not only when they may face trouble, but also when times are good — to aid them with prevention of illness or accident by helping them to live healthier. The applications are many. The key is to use one’s imagination to find the right balance between knowing what patterns to sense and putting collected data to good use.

(1) Lynn, Kecia. Using Sensor Networks to Track Seniors In Their Homes. Big Think. November 15, 2012.

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