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Technology Could Give Seniors Safety,

Better Health Care, and Home Independence

(photo below not part of original article)

An article from C-Net.com examines recent advances in technology that would enable caregivers to monitor older parents more carefully, and give seniors more at-home independence. Here are some excerpts from that article.

Armed with everything from sensors, Webcams and GPS devices to pendants and bracelets with emergency buttons, caregivers are increasingly relying on technology to keep track of their parents remotely while allowing those seniors to have a sense of independence. While the market for this technology is wildly fragmented and not easily measured, few doubt it's growing.

"I believe the technologies on the market are very promising. And what is coming down the pike will be more integrated systems that include monitoring wellness, safety, physiological and medication monitoring all tied together into a personal health record," said Majd Alwan, director of the Center for Aging Services Technologies.

Perhaps of greatest interest to tech buffs is what a number of companies are doing to bring various monitoring pieces together. Home Guardian, a start-up that came out of a University of Virginia project, for example, is working on a detector that uses floor sensors, rather than a device strapped to the body, to detect when someone falls.

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In Australia, information technology lecturers Peter Leijdekkers and Valerie Gay of the computer systems department for the University of Technology Sydney, are developing a mobile heart rate monitor called Personal Health Monitor.... That information is then remotely sent to a health care service, or patient's doctor, as well as their caregivers, via text messages.

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...several devices are already available that send an immediate alert to a monitoring service, should a senior suffer a fall or ailment while in the home.

A senior wearing a bracelet or pendant with a personal emergency response system (PERS) could hit the emergency button if he or she falls or has a heart attack, for example.

A signal would then be triggered to a communicator device hooked up to the senior's home phone, which would call the monitoring service. The service would then use the communicator as a two-way intercom to talk to the senior and determine whether an emergency vehicle, family member or friend should come over. Philips Lifeline, for example, sells such a service for $35 per month for equipment and monitoring.

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Security company ADT, for example, offers three home health monitoring services. One is a PERS product called Companion Service. Another is a sensor-system set-up called QuietCare, and a third service combines both offerings.

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Webcams to monitor seniors inside their homes are also hitting the market. Last October, AT&T launched its Home Monitoring Service, which includes sensors and Webcams. And although the Webcams feature a privacy button, it can be overridden by the account holder.

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The question, of course, is who will pay for this technology--insurance companies, the government, adult caregivers, or seniors on a fixed income?

"A lot of people think insurance companies should pay for it," Home Guardian's Kell said. "Right now, it's the consumer who pays for these types of systems."

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