Elderly shoppers to get ‘sat nav’ gadget to find their way around supermarkets
(TELEGRAPH) Scientists are working on a device which works like a car navigation system to help elderly shoppers baffled by changing layouts in aisles.
It is part of government-funded research at three centres – Newcastle, Aberdeen and Nottingham universities – into new ways of using digital technology to help the elderly and disabled.
Other ideas include a kitchen packed with an array of hidden sensors, projectors and electronics that can help Alzheimer’s patients live independently.
The sat nav shopping device is likely to use both a global positioning system and the latest mobile phone location coordinates.
Newcastle University is already testing a gadget for dementia patients so they can be tracked if they get lost.
Professor Paul Watson, of Newcastle University, said: “Many older people lack the confidence to maintain ‘normal’ walking habits. This is often due to worries about getting lost in unfamiliar, new or changing environments.”
The gadgets will be designed to be worn “unobtrusively”, he said.
Professor Watson has also developed the hi-tech kitchen, which he said would offer a lifeline to sufferers of dementia.
Sensors hidden in every cupboard door, appliance and utensil tell a central computer exactly what a dementia patient is doing at any time.
If the kitchen thinks the individual has become confused, it projects written reminders of what to do next on to the closest wall.
A prototype of the ‘ambient kitchen’ is being developed at Newcastle University and researchers believe it could be in homes within five years.
Professor Watson said: “This is for people starting to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease who may get half way through cooking a meal or making a cup of tea but who then get stuck. There are sensors in the utensils and floor so it knows when people are cutting vegetables or using the kettle.
“It is designed to learn people’s behaviour and spot when something unusual has happened – then prompt them. The idea is to put it into your own home. The cost will be hundreds of pounds – and it will save on the costs of sheltered accommodation.”
It uses radio frequency identification tags and sensors in every appliance and utensil in the kitchen to build up a picture of movement by the kitchen user.
Pressure pads under the floor reveal where the owner is standing and which way they are facing.
Information from the sensors is sent wirelessly to a computer hidden away in one of the cupboards.
Other research projects include a health kit for rural residents that monitors a patient’s heartbeat, temperature and breathing rates and sends the information wirelessly to a doctor.