Mobile sensors could provide useful health data from seniors, study suggests

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Wireless mobile technology that can track daily activities such as walking, sitting and standing, as well as talking and interacting with others, could provide researchers with important physical and emotional health data, new research suggests.

In a small pilot study, investigators outfitted eight elderly continuing care community residents (average age 85) with wireless mobile sensors worn around the waist. Worn for 10 days, the sensors monitored and measured each resident's daily activities and behaviors, which the researchers say correlates with a person's physical and psychological health. Data collected from these sensors could potentially help healthcare providers predict early symptoms of dementia, heart problems or depression, researchers said. They added that this data collection method is easier to obtain than surveys and other self-reporting formats.

"It's an easy jump to imagine other populations using this as well," Dartmouth College researcher said Ethan M. Berke, M.D., told HealthDay News. "Our ability to sense and understand the behaviors . . . has been correlated with established metrics. Certainly we need to do much larger, more robust studies to see that these [results] correlate as strongly as they do."

Independent experts, however, said it is difficult to make recommendations because of the study's small sample size. The study was published in the July/August issue of Annals of Family Medicine.