Caring Currents

Robots and Other High-Tech Solutions Help Seniors Stay at Home

Last updated: May 06, 2008


Last week we talked about an innovative retirement community that uses cutting-edge technology to monitor frail residents. Turns out similar technology is available to support -- and spy on -- seniors in their own homes, and even more futuristic blueprints are in the works.

Available now are an array of high-tech monitoring systems that allow you to keep watch over your parents from across the street or across the country.  Quiet Care Plus combines the traditional medical-alert button with a motion-detection system that keeps track of your parents' movements and transmits data to a password-protected website where you can monitor them from the comfort of your own home. 

Other options include AttentiveCare , which uses videoconferencing software to monitor frail elders, and GrandCare , which features a combination of sensors, call-buttons, and a dedicated TV channel.

Most Jetson-esque of all is the UBot-5 , currently in development at UMass Amherst. This robotic companion will help retirees with everything from navigating their homes to grocery shopping, plus offer a live video connection to distant loved ones. If its owner falls down, the UBot-5 dials 911, then applies a digital stethescope and conveys information to paramedics en route.

These devices take the notion of baby monitors to an altogether new level. And they raise the same set of questions the high-tech retirement home we looked at last week does : How much privacy are we willing to trade for safety and, just as importantly, freedom?

A UMass grad student is developing a marketing plan for the UBot-5 and hopes to have them on the shelf within a few years of his graduation. Will your name be on the waiting list?

Image courtesy of  The Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics  at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.