OHSU study monitors seniors in effort to allow them - and others - to age-in-place

Beverley Healy's apartment in the Mirabella Portland retirement community is wired with motion sensors and other Bluetooh enabled technology to monitor her movements and other functions. (KATU)

Whether you're eighteen or eighty, surveys show that 90 percent of us want to live out our lives at home.

An ongoing study by doctors at Oregon Health Sciences University of how people age in place uses in-home sensors to monitor active seniors' every move.

There are sensors on the ceilings, sensors on the walls, sensors in every room of eighty-one year-old Beverley Healy’s apartment in the Mirabella Portland retirement community on the South Waterfront.

“This tracks my usual speed like this,” Healy said, pointing at about a half dozen small white motion sensors in the foyer of her 10 floor apartment.” If I walk more slowly over time they'll know that my energy level or something physical's going on with me.”

The sensors are linked through Bluetooth to computers at OHSU’s life lab, technology that measures over time the loss of mobility and decline in cognitive functions. In addition to the motion sensors, Healy’s pillbox is wired, as is her bathroom scale.

“That records not only my weight, but my body fat, my pulse, my resting pulse and the Co2 in the room,” Healy said, pointing at what looks like any normal bathroom scale.

Healy, who only quit skiing last year after being hit by a snowboarder and suffering a concussion and broken ribs, said she hopes allowing doctors to document her inevitable decline can help others who want to be as fiercely independent as she is.

“They have to have a lot of people like me who are ostensibly healthy, active seniors who are aging in place and can be tracked over time,” Healy explained. “None of us get out of this alive. So whatever happens to me will happen in this building. And my children can be concerned about me, but they don't have to worry.”

Dr. Jeffrey Kaye who is leading the study says the program will expand early next year to wire another 240 around the nation with the technology to monitor African-American, Latino and military veterans in both urban and rural locations.

"Aging in place is a key, heartfelt aspiration for everyone,” Kaye said. “If you need to go to a nursing home or institutional facility, current costs are up to $90,000 a year per individual. Being able to understand how we can facilitate better aging, aging in place, is a really important goal.”

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