The Oregon Center for Aging and Technology is a research group associated with the Layton Alzheimer's Disease Center at OHSU.
As healthcare advances, people are living longer and needing more care. However, most people want to stay in their homes, where they are most comfortable. Meeting this need, called aging in place, is one of the goals of the Oregon Center for Aging and Technology. Starting in 2000 with a seed grant from Intel Corporation, ORCATECH has been working to improve the lives of seniors through the use of technology. Through advanced hardware and software, the ORCATECH team maintains a technology platform. This system aims to be unobtrusive and collect continuous data. This method of data collection can reveal so much more than an individual might report at their annual physical. Part of the ORCATECH vision is to make the platform available to researchers around the world. The data collection devices could be customized for use in a whole array of research and clinical trials.
All of the data collected in the platform is stored in secure servers to protect volunteers.
Motion sensors are used in homes to monitor volunteer's movements. One is placed in each room of the home, on the entry doors, and an array on the ceiling to capture walking speeds. The sensor data is gathered and fed into a variety of algorithms. Researchers then look at data such as room transitions, time spent in a particular room, and time out of the home. This data can reveal patterns that could be used to find health issues. For example, researchers found that there is a certain change in walking speeds when a person is developing Parkinson's disease. They have also identified that a person spending greater hours in the bathroom might have a urinary tract infection. A correlation between a person spending less time out of the home and depression issues has also been seen using the sensors.
Pillboxes connected to the platform can reveal if someone is adhering to taking their medications. A change in medication taking habits might reveal a cognitive decline in the elderly. The pillboxes have been used for research with younger volunteers as well. This part of the ORCATECH platform is useful in clinical trials to make sure medications are being taken properly.
The smart connected scales provide not only the subject's weight, but also their body composition and heart rate. Additionally, the scales read the room CO2 levels and temperature. This means that the scales can be used for a variety of future research projects.
Driving sensors are one of the newer additions to the ORCATECH platform. They reveal definite patterns between cognitive decline and driving behaviors. Volunteers with cognitive impairment drive less on the highways and stick to their known routes.
The Ambient Independence Measures study uses motion sensors, pillboxes, scales, and self report surveys to look at care transitions. Through unobtrusive monitoring, researchers hope to determine whether this data can help care teams in their decision making process. The platform was installed in seniors' homes across the Portland, OR area, and data has been collected for several years.
Research via Internet of Technology and Experience is an ongoing study that is solely online. Volunteers do not have the platform installed in their homes, they simply answer digital surveys. There is a large cohort of participants, and their survey answers allow researchers to develop novel project ideas, as well as understand volunteers' opinions on relevant topics.
The Collaborative Aging Research using Technology initiative is a multi-site study. With locations in Portland, Chicago, and Miami, the study involves more diverse communities. CART maintains the goal of helping seniors live more independently for longer, while aiming to expand research to even more locations. Using the whole technology platform and working over long distances, this study is a great test of robustness for ORCATECH.
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Submitted by Ariella Brenner