According to the National Council of Aging and CDC, one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
Center for disease control and prevention (CDC) points out that falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths. In 2014, the total cost of fall related injuries were estimated at $31 billion.
Organizations such as NCOA have been at the forefront promoting awareness and providing resources to the elderly.
The risks are more magnified in the instances where our elderly folks live alone. When they suffer from a fall, they may not be able to get up and contact their loved ones during the emergency.
Companies such as LifeAlert and ElderCheckNow have figured out wireless technology solutions that can help in this situation. When the user presses the emergency button on the supplied device, they can summon the local police and ambulance services and get help.
What if the affected elderly is unable to press the emergency button on the device? What if the fear of falling is limiting the mobility of your loved one and as a result quality of life issues become significant.
Apple has been looking into this issue and is exploring solutions to provide help and assistance via use of technology.
Apple’s patent (9,794,729) approved today explores this issue in some detail by looking at the promises of sharing sensor data.
Apple’s iPhone and especially the Apple Watch allow users to track and analyze their own movements for exercise and health reasons. When you are wearing the Apple Watch on your wrist, it can track your location as well as other movement information via the various sensors that are embedded in the device.
Family members of the elderly user can choose to track the motion of the user and identify if their loved one has fallen.
Motion states tracked and analyzed based on the Watch information can include a stationary state, a walking state, a running state, and a driving state.
A deeper functional state can be formulated by looking at the sensor data and can include a plurality of activities associated with each motion state.
For example, functional state classification can be associated with each motion state (e.g., driving, walking) by further describing each motion state (e.g., walking on rough terrain, driving while texting).
When a user falls, the accelerometer sensor will show unusual numbers. Combining and co-relating that with other sensor data collected from the Apple Watch will immediately provide the basis of alerts that can then be sent to family members as notifications.
The challenge with this type of implementation centers on security and privacy. The patent does address these issues and provides various techniques around securing the data.
Think of it as Family Plan for Sensor data with different permission levels.
Given that now we have drug dispensing bottles that are Bluetooth enabled and have built in medication time reminders, technology can go a long way in integrating the various sensor information and providing analytics that can improve the quality of life for elderly and their loved ones.
Apple Watch has been rising in popularity. The new Series 3 with LTE provides the user more flexibility. With time, the watch will support faster and more efficient processors and many more sensors.
When it comes to security and privacy of your personal information, Apple stands out as a company that has always championed for their users rights.
The adoption rate for wearables in the senior demographic is currently very low.
If Apple can take steps to create more use cases like this that can improve the quality of life for elderly users, there is bound to be value for everyone involved in the future.