As some of the largest populations in history approach old age, and the pile of brand new needs grows with them, researchers are already testing new technologies that should make aging easier than ever.
A biomedical engineering researcher at the University of Toronto named Alex Mihailidis has been touring Canada lately to explain some of his projects and offer a glimpse into the homes of tomorrow’s elderly.
A lot of the technology proposed starts out like the sort of products we are already starting to see emerge in the growing smart home technology market. There are cameras and sensors for motion or heat. But there aren’t any versions of these products that can do what Mihailidis is working on.
One of his projects involves a camera that could watch Alzheimer’s patients going through their daily routines. When those patients might forget what they need to do next or need a reminder, the smart home could either call out to them by name with instructions or play a video to show them.
Mihailidis hopes that the technology will one day be able to fully take over the responsibilities that are currently fulfilled by either a family member or an in-home nursing official.
Another project Mihailidis has been working on would also take some of the health care tedium out of daily routines. His team is developing a special kind of flooring that can measure a person’s heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, from the bottoms of patients' feet as they stand on it. This information can be sent to doctors automatically, or set up to send notifications when unusual activity arises.
The technology closest to being realized, according to Mihailidis, is an in-home system of sensors that would be able to tell when someone has fallen or been injured and then call for help automatically. So long, Life Alert.
Japanese scientists have worked for years toward a similar goal, creating robots that could care for their aging population.
Which one do you think would creep out your grandma more? A robot servant or a talking house that is constantly reading her feet?