Smart homes liberate people with dementia

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - If British researchers are successful, it may soon be easier for people with dementia to remain in their own homes.

The investigators are working on "smart" home sensing systems capable of doing everything from reminding people to turn off the faucet to automatically switching lights and appliances on and off. The idea is to create a sort of virtual caregiver, even to the point of using the voices of friends and relatives to record the reminders and other messages.

The technology is currently being trialed in two care homes in Great Britain, where it has been helping people for more than a year now. "The driver really has been to arrive at a creative engineering solution that addresses real problems faced by real people with real needs," system developer Professor Roger Orpwood was quoted as saying. "The key is to focus on enabling people, not on taking decisions away from them."

The systems are aimed at taking some of the burden off of caregivers, and in some cases, may even allow people with dementia to live on their own. The next step will be to ensure they can be managed by local health care providers. If that pans out, Professor Orpwood believes we could see these types of systems go on the market in the next five years.

SOURCE: Presented at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's "Pioneers '09," March 4, 2009, London

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