Developing and evaluating motion-capture technology to help older adults “age in place” has been the focus of researchers at the University of Missouri for more than a decade. Previous research has utilized video game technology and various web-cameras to detect health changes in Tiger Place residents. Now, two new studies demonstrate how monitoring walking speed using radar and heart health by utilizing bed sensors help maintain older adults’ health and warn of impeding issues.
“In-home sensors have the ability to capture early signs of health changes before older adults recognize problems themselves,” said Marjorie Skubic, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the MU College of Engineering and director of MU’s Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology. “The radar enhances our ability to monitor walking speed and determine if a senior has a fall risk; the bed sensors provide data on heart rate, respiration rate, and overall cardiac activity when a senior is sleeping. Both sensors are non-invasive and don’t require seniors to wear monitoring devices.”
The radar sensors were used to monitor the walking speed of residents in 10 Tiger Place apartments for two years. The radar devices were concealed in a wooden box and placed in the living room of each senior resident. Residents also were provided monthly assessments by professionals to establish whether they were at risk for potential falls. The data collected were then compared to the data captured by the radar.
“Before using radar, we were able to estimate an individual’s walking speed and have an idea of their health status,” said Dominic Ho, co-author and professor of electrical and computer engineering in the MU College of Engineering. “Now, we have data that definitely shows how declines in walking speed can determine the risk for falls.”