Senior Care Research Shows Aging In Place is Viable Through Tech

Research being conducted at the University of Missouri could revolutionize home care for those who receive it—as well as those who provide it. 

Hinging on devices that help capture activity and movement among senior residents of independent living apartments, the research, which recently received a new round of grant funding, has found seniors can remain independent through the early detection of potential health situations. 

“We can detect health event changes 10 days, two weeks, a month ahead of when a major health event is about to happen,” says Marilyn Rantz, Associate Director, for the university’s Interdisciplinary Center on Aging.


 “What the means, is if you give people a heads up, clinicians can assess and resolve a situation while it’s in the early stage and not have it become full-blown, resulting in a hospitalization, or [intensive care unit] stay, an emergency room visit or a fall.”

The research team, which has a new study underway following the most recent funding, has partnered with two independent living communities to test motion sensors and bed sensors in the apartments of 70 test subjects. 

The use of the devices rests on the ability to place them so they are not obtrusive in any way. They then react to change in behavior, sending a signal back to care providers or clinicians. 


“Day to day it needs to be non-present because we don’t want people to think about it. It doesn’t have to be the thing you get up and think about.”

The researchers have partnered with tech provider Proactive Sense on the installation and maintenance of the devices. The cost is $200 per Internet-enabled residence per month, which operates like cable service and includes a depth camera, bed sensor and enough passive infrared sensors for the size of the residence. Proactive Sense also provides care coordination by a team of skilled nurses and is currently marketing to senior living communities with a planned launch in homes next year. 

The home care component, while still new, has vast potential, Rantz says. 

“I see this as a potential use in home health care to augment home care services for older people in that the alerts can be sent to family members, to the residents themselves or to a home health agency,” Rantz says. “That’s the vision for the use of this technology.” 

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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