Research Emphasizes Technology to Aid Elderly

Tools include a pill dispenser that monitors use of medications

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- "Intelligent" walkers and canes that issue an alert when they sense balance or motor problems are among the new kinds of technology for seniors being developed at the Oregon Roybal Center for Aging & Technology (ORCATECH) at Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland.

ORCATECH, a collaboration of academic, industry and community partners that is funded by the National Institutes of Health, is researching and creating technology to assess and improve how elderly people function in their homes. The objective is to help seniors maintain their independence, and offer them good health and quality of life.

The MedTracker pill dispenser is one example. It looks like an ordinary pill dispenser, but when each tiny compartment is opened, a wireless signal is sent to a computer system that records the medications taken from the dispenser. If it notices a senior has failed to take a medication, the system can send a reminder to the person.

"The data generated by MedTracker can also be used to recognize if the senior has begun to need more assistance with their medication, and may even be helpful in identifying early memory changes," MedTracker project lead investigator Tamara Hayes, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, said in a prepared statement.

Other projects include a weight sensor-equipped bed that tracks sleep patterns, sensors used to track movement in homes, and adaptive computer games that monitor, and may help improve, seniors' cognitive performance, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice on healthy aging.

SOURCE: Oregon Health & Science University, news release, Dec. 13, 2005

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