New technology to keep seniors safer


Denise Yarmlak is already keeping close tabs on her 91-year-old mother Agnes, even though she lives 3,000 miles away in New Jersey. She's doing it with a new app on her smartphone.

"It's telling me where she is. The person dot is the last place there was motion. So she's moving between the kitchen and the living room," explains Yarmlak.

Several months ago, the mother and daughter became a beta testers of sorts for the Bay Area start up where Denise works. The company is Walnut Creek-based Safe In Home. It's the latest to apply smartphone communications to a monitoring system and one is designed specifically for seniors.

The system relies on a network of sensors that can be stuck into place without tools. Magnetic door monitors transmit a signal if someone leaves or enters the house, while a series of motion detectors track movements from room to room. Software alerts are designed to help users spot breaks in a senior's normal routine, such as a long stay in the bathroom, which could indicate a fall. Creator Jack Lloyd says the idea is to take the onus off the senior.

"Different than say an emergency button, that only works when she pushes the button and lets you know there's something wrong if she's A, wearing it and B, is still alright to push the button," explains Lloyd.

He says a separate sensors detect if a stove is left on, if the senior has left the house with his or her keys, or if a medicine container is opened. The information is transmitted via a cell signal that reaches the care giver or family member directly. The system works on a monthly subscription rate of roughly $90 to $130 a month, significantly more expensive than some panic alert systems. But the company says Safe In Home can act as a bridge, potentially delaying the need for in home care.

"If you want someone to come in for a couple of hours a day, it's going to cost you $5,000 - $10,000 a month," says Lloyd. "And that's really prohibitive for lots of people, so this is a compromise."

Yarmlak says the system has allowed her to take on more responsibility for her mom's care, despite living across the country.

"I think if it not being for this, she would be living in assisted living," she says.

The company is currently working on a data system that will create activity reports that will allow families and professional caregivers to track emerging patterns or changes in a senior's behavior over the course of weeks or months.

Written and produced by Tim Didion

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