Sensor system aims to keep elderly at home

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Researchers believe they can delay or eliminate assisted living or nursing home care for many elderly individuals through a home sensor network. University of Missouri faculty members Marjorie Skubic, Ph.D., and Marilyn Rantz, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, have developed a system that provides home monitoring.

Along with Rantz, a  professor in the university's Sinclair School of Nursing, the pair have developed the network, which monitors changes in activity patterns and baseline health conditions.

The equipment includes motion detectors based on video gaming technology that monitors gait. A new hydraulic bed sensor measures an individual's pulse, respiration and restlessness during sleep.

"We're monitoring people with lots of different ailments, such as diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and cardiac problems," said Skubic, an electrical and computer engineering professor.

"Our goal is to keep people in their private homes for as long as possible," Skubic said. "The idea is to detect functional decline or early signs of illness, so we can identify problems when they are very small and proactively address them before they become catastrophic."

The researchers see commercialization of the equipment as the next step. Testing is underway at TigerPlace, a Columbia, MO, eldercare facility operated by Americare. Skubic and Rantz have received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to expand their research to Western Home Communities, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The work is supported by a White House initiative, US Ignite, and NSF, the project's lead federal agency.


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