How Do We Take Care of Old People Who Live on Their Own?

old careIt’s easy to take care of your family member’s wellbeing when you live in the same house, but family wellness becomes an issue when one of those members is an elderly person living alone. If he or she faints or falls at home, there is no one there to alert you or a doctor, and it could be days before your loved one is discovered, which may be too late. However, a new system, thought up by engineers at the National University of Singapore (NUS), could have the solution to this worrying problem.

NUS engineers have come up with a system that allows distress signals to be sent with the push of a button, known as the e-Guardian. This device looks just like any digital watch but with an alert button built in, as well as a device that can sense if the elderly person wearing it has taken a tumble. If your loved one has been still for a long time, the duration of which can be chosen by the user, an alert will automatically be triggered, as Associate Professor Tan Kok Kiong of NUS’ electrical and computer engineering department, who led a group of students for this project that started in 2010, said that prolonged inactivity may mean the person has suffered a stroke.

So how does it work? A palm-size device fitted with a SIM card, the base station, is wirelessly connected to the watch. So, if your loved one’s wellness may be at risk, the base station sends SMS alerts to any contacts that are saved in the SIM card, or it can sound the alarm over the Internet through a website. Thumb-sized range transmitters, placed around the house, help to expand the system’s reach, so you don’t have to worry about your loved one falling out of the base system’s range.

According to Professor Tan, ‘The system can be scaled up to cover the entire house, HDB block or elsewhere in the neighbourhood,’ and the e-Guardian can also be equipped with other functions. He noted that, if an elderly person lives in a block of flats, you can fit red LED lights onto their windows. These will blink when the distress signal is activated, alerting passers-by or neighbours that their help is required.

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