KEEPING THE ELDERLY INDEPENDENT IN SMART HOMES
Using the latest RFID tracking solutions, the Internet of Things (IoT) gives societies worldwide the help they need to overcome the challenges of caring for an ageing population. In the UK, alone, the numbers of elderly citizens is expected to reach 16.9 million by 2035. Many other countries worldwide are reporting lower birthrates, and, in turn, an ageing population that has the potential to increase the strain on medical services.
With this significant increase, it may well be asked: how do societies take care of an ageing population, especially when they do not necessarily need permanent residence in care homes? How can the elderly get the healthcare they need when they do not need actual hospital treatment?
Providing comfort and well-being
The answer to this may well be shifting how we live to an IoT content, using RFID tagging and tracking systems to help monitor the elderly whilst they remain in their own homes. This is a particularly relevant solution to ensure older citizens remain independent, but have a system of alerts keeping an eye on them should they require help.
Geriatric care specialists generally acknowledge that changes to daily routine can indicate illness and/or a decline in cognitive abilities. However, entities, such as the Intel-run organization Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) argue for a shift away from the traditional approach to caring for elderly citizens. They argue that individuals do not necessarily need to face living permanently in care homes – or can at least significantly delay moving out of their homes when they use RFID technologies.
There are several ways in which RFID tracking can be integrated into an elderly resident’s, all of which have many benefits. These include:
- RFID technology can be used to monitor and improve the healthcare elderly residents receive – caregivers can receive data through the Internet as it comes in from RFID readers installed throughout the home. These readers keep tabs on daily activities, as sensors pick up signals sent out by the tagged items. Any notable changes in daily activities can be picked up by caregivers, as they compare the data coming in, in real-time, against the individual’s normal routine.
- Alerts can be sent out to elderly patients who may otherwise forget to take important medication. This can also occur when they are required to stick to a predetermined diet. The alerts give users the ability to maintain at least some independence in their daily lives.
- An RFID-based alarm system can be given to the elderly which can be worn either as a necklace or as a wristband. This alarm can be pressed if they fall and are unable to seek help, sending an alert to a centralized system, which then arranges for the appropriate help to come.
- Self-learning stove alarms can be used as added smoke and heat detectors, by learning the user’s cooking habits. This is simply done through an oven picking up data as it is used, and sending out alerts when it is left on for too long. This ensures elderly users and their families no longer have to worry about potentially dangerous gases being released or fires starting.
- Door sensors can be installed to both track movements, and to lock doors as needed. These can also be used to automatically switch lights on or off depending on whether movement inside the room is picked up. The added benefit of door sensors is that they can be an especially useful alternative to carrying door keys, which can easily be lost.
- Monitoring and controlling temperatures, particularly indoor heating and water temperatures, are useful added features, particularly for residents with health issues irritated by extremes in heat or cold. Faucets can have temperature-activated flow reducers screwed to them to reduce or stop water flowing when the heat gets too high. Thermostats can also have temperature controls to adjust according to outside weather – and become more efficient as a result.
- Unfortunately, elderly citizens remain targets for burglars who use their vulnerability as a tool to take advantage of. Queue the introduction of the smart doorbell, which acts as a mini CCTV system. This helps users speak, record or even take a picture of visitors for viewing via their mobile device. If the elderly resident is not physically active, smart doorbells can also be programmed to let visitors, such as health workers into their home.
Aside from reducing the strain on healthcare services by allowing the elderly to stay at home, including IoT-connected devices has the added benefit of being potentially life-saving. At the same, providing the elderly with at-home support increases their quality of life and comfort. Although there is an argument that it takes away their privacy, the elderly do at least have a protective system in place that ensures they receive help when they most need it.