Tech for Aging: How Tech Can Ease the Trials of Getting OldCITRIS Director of Health Initiatives David Lindeman and his team “offer a glowing array of technologies… that can monitor everything from daily mood shifts to heart rhythms, and even edible chips that track digestive function.” By applying cutting-edge technological research to the field of gerontological care, CITRIS is creating a new level of security for the elderly population. Frank Browning wrote an article for California Magazine with fellowship support from New America Media, the Gerontological Society of America, and the Silver Century Foundation.
California Magazine, August 8, 2017 – Broken hip announcements were a dark opera as I entered adulthood. Both parents. Then the parents of many of my friends and the parents of their friends’ friends as we marched toward middle age. For each of the afflicted, it was the last stumble toward the grave. For their offspring, who had tumbled through the tear gas of the Vietnam era, it was strange to witness: falling down, then pneumonia, confusion, intestinal bleeding, bladder infections, dementia, stroke, and within a year or at most two, the tomb. All from a broken bone from an unseen sliver of ice or a crumbled curb.
Having concluded middle age, I no longer find it strange. Over three hundred thousand Americans are hospitalized each year for fractured hips. One in three people over 65 suffers a serious fall each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death for American seniors.
Fall prevention has risen to the top of the agenda in elder health centers across the United States and Europe, and, not surprisingly, a key initiative of CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society) and Banatao Institute, based at UC Berkeley, where David Lindeman, who earned his Ph.D. and MSW from Cal, is CITRIS’s Director of Health Initiatives.
Lindeman’s team recently conducted a daylong series of seminars on new technologies aimed at protecting us from the hazards of age at this year’s Global Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in San Francisco. He and his colleagues offer a glowing array of technologies, or, as he calls them, “gizmos” that can monitor everything from daily mood shifts to heart rhythms, and even edible chips that track digestive function. It’s all part of today’s info-smart lifestyle movement. We have cars that tell you if your seat and seat belt are correctly positioned, if your tires are properly inflated, and if you are going to bump into the guy behind you. The new fully monitored smart home will go way beyond safety grips in the bathing zone and non-slip tiles. It will offer sound and visual monitors that warn you when you’re losing your balance, and it will record stumbles. And this information can be instantly beamed to a remote care center.
Lindeman said he is working with a Berkeley startup, SkyDeck-funded SafelyYou, which is developing visual monitors that are essentially low-cost cameras placed in the rooms of people living in senior communities in California. “You’re being monitored 24/7 in terms of your mobility, how you ambulate,” he explained. “The pilot program, he says, was successful. The cameras helped researchers and family members to see progressively unstable movements and “anticipate and thus reduce falls by 80 percent.”