Tracking Seniors: HYS Circle discussion Sept. 2014

By: Walt Maclay.  Updated: September 17, 2021.


Problem description

At the September 2014 Aging in Place Technologies Meetup group nine of us discussed the problems with tracking devices for seniors, particularly for use in homes.  The group posed many problems and offered solutions to many of them.  The leader of the discussion, Charles Stinson, offered many of the solutions.

There are lots of devices.  They are different and handle different problems well.  People with dementia need different devices. Technology is changing, allowing devices to be smaller and smaller.

How can we get seniors to use and wear devices?  Make them beautiful, such as jewlry.  The device should be something important that the senior would never leave home without, like a wallet or purse.  It can enrich the life of the senior, making it highly desireable, such as a many seniors who use iPads.

Call them "locating devices" not "tracking devices" to remove the negative connotation.

The cognitively impaired may take off the device and forget to put it on, even if it is desireable or beautiful.  

There are often simple low-tech solutions.  A senior who wandered was frequently going outside to put out the garbage.  A sign was placed on the door saying, "The garbage has already been taken out".  The senior read the sign each time he approached the door and stopped wandering.

Systems with detectors around the house are not all the same.  Some are better for one task and others are better at another.  There is a book on Amazon written by Richard Caro that helps identify what devices are good for you.

Something that works 85% of the time may be satisfactory if what it detects is not serious or life threatening.  Technology can be less than perfect and still be useful.  For critical life threatening tasks, the reliability must be much higher.

Sometimes a device needs to keep things together such as a senior and his walker.  Sometimes a device needs to keep things apart, such as two people who tend to argue.  Locating devices can be made to do both things.

How can you take away the stigma that a device has (it says, "I'm sick", because those who wear it are sick)?  The above ideas work, but alert seniors will realize that everyone wearing a particular device is sick.  There is no single solution.  One facility required everyone to wear a device, so there was not a stigma for one group of people.


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from jschrempp (member) at September 22, 2014

Another idea is to make the sensor so small and cheap that ALL the older adult's clothes could be marked. Maybe use the wireless, powerless tags that stores use to track merchandise. Put one on every single shirt.

Another idea would be to embed the senor in each pair of shoes and slippers. Most people in this category probably put their shoes on to go outside.

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