First published April 19, 2016
The Digital Health Show Conference and Workshophad some standout projects aimed at improving the lives of the elderly and more vulnerable in our communities. Innovation for our ageing population will help integrate our society’s communities, improving wellbeing across all age groups. Here are some highlights:
1) A/Prof Valerie Gay and Dr Peter Leijdekkers of UTS showed how their community model, Le Bon Samaritain, links elderly residents in the community with “Good Samaritan” neighbours who are alerted via smartphone app if the resident is in distress, via a Red, Yellow and Green light system. Using “tech to empower communities,” this will help engage neighbours with often isolated members of the community. From our experiences working primarily with the elderly, we’ve seen many preventable hospital admissions occur during heatwaves, floods and falls, and feel that systems like these will help improve safety in our communities.
2) Philip Goebel, Physiotherapist and co-founder of Quanticare technologies, demonstrated the Footprints sensor, that attaches to a user’s walking frame and analyses gait during everyday use. The Internet of Things Innovation World Cup Winner at Barcelona, Philip created Footprints in response to the feeling that “our healthcare system is very reactive; focusing on fall detection, rather than indicator of cause.” Footprints uses an optical sensor which analyses gait via spatio-temporal gait metrics. The data generated can assist with prescribing mobility aids and falls risk management.
3) The ePAT (Pain Assessment Tool) for Dementia uses facial recognition software assess pain accurately in dementia sufferers, who often cannot verbalise their pain. Founded by Professor Jeff Hughes, former head of Pharmacy at Curtin University, he described how, by using the inbuilt cameras on smart devices, ePAT can assess facial pain cues at the point of pain onset, as well as non-facial pain cues. The benefits for dementia sufferers and their carers, will extend to more accurate pain management in hospitals and the community, and is being looked into with pre-verbal children.
4) Eureka Connection: A/Prof Helen Hasan, Information Systems specialist from the University of Wollongong, hosted a workshop discussing Eureka Connection’s vision for bringing computers and smart devices to senior citizens. Starting with the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Helen’s passion for bringing tech literacy to seniors through home visits, community centre stations and education was reflected in the videos of seniors who were awed at sending their first email, receiving their first Skype call, and joining their first Facebook community group during a seasonal flood. As the elderly are at more risk of injury and isolation, tech education to encourage connectivity and social integration helps their wellness and physical health. Giving advice on how to set up a computer or smart device; selecting the right device for their needs, making it user-friendly by, for example, enabling large text; and helping them to reload credit and find hotspots are just some of the things this ambitious project hopes to achieve.
What are your thoughts on these projects for seniors? Comment below.