Technology could save seniors’ lives


URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Senior citizens tend to be prone to falls. They don’t tend to be smart device savvy.

But it’s the latest technology tying the two together that could save their life.

There are several devices on the market now that can alert a family member when the loved one wearing it falls. When that happens, time is of the essence.

Going further than that, the U of I professor we spoke with says there will soon be even more options to keep elderly people everywhere safer.

A man in Washington says his dad’s apple watch is what saved his life. When they were supposed to meet up for a bike ride, his dad’s watch detected a hard fall, and he was able to get medical attention. The Facebook post went viral.

The problem is right now, not everyone can afford technology able to do that. “They either do expensive devices or things in the hospital,” said U of I professor Bruce Schatz.

That’s why he devotes his time to research, developing devices everyone could access.

“No one can afford to have a doctor follow them around,” said Schatz. “So if you had something that would watch you all the time, and was cheap enough so you could carry it all the time, then it might pick up things that you would need to do something about.”

He’s testing a sensor that knows when someone is unstable enough to be prone to a fall at any time. Then it alerts that person, and they can take steps to stop a fall before it even happens.

“Preventative medicine. That’s not a popular catch phrase yet, but it will be at some point,” said Schatz.

For now, seniors like Joan Burlingame are embracing this kind of technology.

It’s an in-home sensor that detects falls. and if the person (in this case, Joan’s husband) can get up.

“I’m a bridge player,” she said. “I have a lot of things I like to do. A lot of committees…different things I’d like to do, and I just feel better about my husband if he’s here by himself.”

If he can’t get up, she’ll get a phone call. “It just gives me more freedom, and I think I’ll worry about him less,” said Burlingame.

She hopes other seniors will put this on their walls, so they can take a load off their backs.

Schatz says his hope is that it won’t be long before his catch phrase, “preventative medicine,” catches on.

“The future of cheap devices is more predicting the short-term future in a way that any problems can be prevented,” said Schatz.

The in-home technology you saw is mostly available to nursing home, assisted living, and senior living facilities right now. But one of the developer representatives told us it won’t be long before products like that will be available to anyone who wants one.

If you’re interested in learning more about your risk for falls, Clark-Lindsey is having a “Health Matters Day” where you can get screened.

It’s on Friday, October 11th at the Savoy Recreation Center from 9am until 3pm. It’s free, but a reservation is required. To RSVP, you can call 217-239-5201.

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