Monday, June 12, 2006.
New assistive-technology devices enable older adults to live at home. For example, home sensors monitor a senior's activities, and special goggles help the visually impaired.
QuietCare, from Living Independently, monitors wireless sensors placed in the most frequently used areas of the home - including the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and medicine cabinet - creating an "electronic map" of the person's daily routine. "We learn when they wake up, how frequently they use the bathroom and when they eat," says Daniel Gold, of Living Independently Group, based in New York City.
Then the software checks for anomalies, such as if someone fails to get out of bed in the morning. It also detects nonemergencies, such as abnormally frequent bathroom visits (a symptom of a urinary tract infection) that may require medical attention.
The QuietCare system posts the information it collects to a Web site for relatives and the client's doctor. The hardware and installation cost $199, and the monitoring service is $83 to $93 a month (866-216-4600; www.quietcaresystems.com).
Lusora Limited plans to sell a similar monitoring service by year's end. Lusora's service will also include a panic-button pendant that a user wears around his or her neck. The pendant features a detector that automatically notifies emergency services if its wearer falls. Dan Bauer, of Lusora, says that the service should cost $40 to $50 per month (415-738-2149; www.lusora.com).
New technologies also help the elderly cope with vision loss. A pair of goggles nicknamed Jordy (for Joint Optic Reflective Display) help people with macular degeneration, glaucoma and other chronic eye ailments. The Jordy goggles magnify images up to 30 times. The wearer sees the world reproduced on 1-inch TV screens in the goggles.
Charlotte Soloway, 71, of East Greenwich, R.I., who has been legally blind since 1998, uses Jordy. Soon after she bought her goggles three years ago, she took them to a Little League game to watch her grandson play. "That was the first time I could see him bat the ball," she says.
The bulky goggles aren't recommended for walking or driving because they reduce a user's field of vision. Jordy costs $2,795 ($3,095 with a desktop stand, which is required for reading). The company plans to create a smaller and lighter version. "The dream is to make something the size of a regular pair of glasses," says Hal Reisiger, of Enhanced Vision, headquartered in Huntington Beach, Calif. (888-811-3161; www.enhancedvision.com).
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