Weʼre raising £60,000 to Develop a design to preserve independence and extend the duration of elderly people safely living alone.
- Portsmouth, UK
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We are living in the age of the app. The age of information. The age of convenience.
"Hey Siri! Text Mum, tell her I will be five minutes late"
"Alexa! What's the weather going to be like tomorrow?"
I've got a watch that tells me if I've slept well. I've got a Fitbit that measures my exercise levels. I've got a gadget that can start the washing machine while I'm still at work. I've got a grandma who is being advised to move out of her home of more than fifty years for her safety and wellbeing. Ring true with anyone? Please read on.
I'm an engineer who has been inspired by existing technologies but frustrated by their target demographic. I've got a vision and a design to reapply these technologies into a wearable device that will aim to preserve the independence of our ageing family members that provides loved ones and relevant authorities peace of mind of their continued wellbeing and instantaneous alerts should something happen.
My grandma says the clock has spun faster than the ticks would suggest. Her body complains, but her mind is sharp as a tack. She can't tackle the stairs, but she can certainly tackle the crosswords. She is proudly independent and not ready to close the door on a home that has seen and heard the games, laughter, tears and arguments of children and grandchildren alike. However, she is being advised that for her wellbeing, it would be better to sell up and move to a warden complex.
This story is not unique to my grandma, I'm sure it holds true for yours also, and grandpa, maybe mother, maybe father, maybe siblings, maybe friends. It can be extended to all of us one day. Even though I'm in my thirties, I can't be so naïve to think that the great clock will tick any slower for me.
My grandma disagrees with the advice given to her and I think she's right to. Our independence is sacred to all of us and should be maintained wherever safely possible to do so.
If we analyse the concerns about her being alone, what does it boil down to? We are worried that she may have a fall and that she is more susceptable to injury. Life's journey has left her bones brittle. We are worried that she may be taken ill and no-one would know.
So how would a warden complex alleviate these concerns?
She would live in a tiny apartment in a retirement home that is kitted out with panic buttons and emergency cords that could be pulled in the event of a fall or if her health deteriorated in any way. A warden is stationed onsite (but only between the hours of nine to five, Monday to Friday!) to offer assistance. When he/she is not available, there is a remote network of carers that can respond.
Although these are helpful devices, they are not without their obvious limitations. It must also be said that they are completely outdated compared to the technologies that are readily available on the consumer market.
This sparked some immediate questions: what happens if she were to fall out of reach of the cords? She has a mobile phone but this is usually further away from her than the landline! What if she loses consciousness? What if it's dark and she can't see?
And the questions continue in a different direction...
How come I can ask Siri/Alexa for my favourite song to be played without having to lift a finger and yet my grandma can't tell me if she's had a fall? Could we detect a fall?
This got me thinking about my younger sister. She passed her driving test a couple of years ago and to prevent her from having to take out a mortgage for her insurance policy, she had a "black box" fitted in her car. This, among other things, measured her speed and would send alerts to the insurer if she exceeded the speed limit. On a rainy day, she bumped the back of the car in front of her at a roundabout. The owner of the vehicle inspected the bumper and very honestly declared that there was no damage and took no further action. No claim was made. However, minutes later, my sister received a call from the insurers who said they were alerted to an accident by the "black box".
I concluded that we have existing technologies to read and analyse our health already in consumer grade items. We have existing technologies that log our whereabouts and detect issues in consumer grade items. We have existing technologies that respond to our voice, that can connect us, that can undergo simple tasks based on verbal instruction and with the "remote wardens", we also have an existing infrastructure to offer support when required.
This all inspired me to produce the basic design for a wrist worn device that is remotely connected to a smartphone or smart speaker. It will be voice activated. It will monitor health, pulse, temperature, sleep etc. It will monitor location, movement (and lack of); it will monitor any sudden changes which suggest trips or falls and should the data suggest an issue, it will contact via a phone, people identified as "in case of emergency" which can include love ones and carers. It can set reminders to take medication, renew prescriptions or even to turn the oven off. Like any other technology it has the potential to expand to much more than this.
But most importantly, it will serve to preserve cherished independence for as long as safely possible.
Utilising readily available technology, my grandma can wear on her wrist far greater safety benefits than what the safety devices in a warden complex currently offers. With this, I'm certain she could remain in her own home with her own independence. This is something we should strive for. There are also potentially huge cost benefits from cutting the cost of unnecessary care.
I have a vision and I believe I have a viable solution. To make it a reality, I need your help.
What I hope to achieve through crowd funding is a working prototype that I can use to seek a comprehensive grant and support for certification (which is no small feat) and hopefully the end goal: production.
I have outlined a project and the basic design for this device. It will reapply all of the above mentioned technologies. It will measure the data and relay any abnormalities to family members and an existing support infrastructure
Should you believe in this cause enough to make a donation, it will be applied to help fund the cost of research and development, detailed design, prototyping and testing. My target is to have a working prototype within a year of funding.
A project is a journey. The progress and development will be regularly published in online presentations so donators can keep up to date with our achievements and can see what they have helped to achieve.
All donations are greatly appreciated. Should anyone have any questions about the project and its roadmap, please don't hesitate to contact.
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- 1 month ago
Paul Saunders1 month ago
This is now live! One thing we must all do is identify our limitations and seek help to strengthen in that direction. Something I know I am not very good at is marketing! I am in the process of making a video that will be uploaded to YouTube that will hopefully summarise the goals and better present the solution. Support in the form of sharing this page with anyone who you may feel it applies to will help massively. When faced with a problem that affects the greater community, the greater community is the best tool to solve the problem!
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Paul Saunders started crowdfunding