Western Home Communities participating in research study - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Western Home Communities participating in research study

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

Western Home Communities in Cedar Falls is partnering with the University of Missouri to launch some new technology, aimed at helping senior citizens stay in their homes longer.  The partnership is made possible through a $300,000 federal grant.

Arlene Samuelson and Esther Hayward aren't shy about their ages.

"I just had my 90th birthday," Samuelson said.

"I had a birthday last week.  I'm 95," said Hayward.

But they admit getting older definitely comes with challenges.  To help keep track of their well-being, the two ladies are among a group of 15 Western Home Communities residents in Cedar Falls who will participate in a research study.  The study will use some new technology, including a bed sensor and overhead motion detectors placed in their apartments.

"We use the Microsoft Kinect to capture gait information in the home.  We process the raw depth images and from that we can get not only walking speed, but step time, step length, body sway.  We can look at how they move from standing to sitting position.  A lot of that correlates to fall risk.  And we can also detect early signs of both physical and cognitive health changes," said Marjorie Skubic, University of Missouri electrical engineering professor.

When there are any changes picked up, a notification is sent to Western Home staff, so they can address the issue with the resident.

"I'm curious to see whether these sensors will find out something about me that I don't already know," Samuelson said.

Researchers from the University of Missouri have studied the technology in the show-me-state for several years.  And it's been very successful at pin-pointing health concerns in seniors, helping them get treatment early and avoid emergency room visits.

"We can pick up illnesses 10 days to two weeks before they would've actually complained about the problem evolving.  We've picked up things like congestive heart failure, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, changes in diabetes, problems with lung disease, a whole array of medical problems," said Marilyn Rantz, University of Missouri nursing school professor.

Thanks to grant money, and local high-speed fiber connections, they're able to expand the operation to Iowa.  The goal is to perfect the system so it can be sold nationwide, ultimately helping seniors stay in their homes longer.

Samuelson and Hayward are glad to be a part of the project, and hope the input they'll give will help catch issues that might help themselves and other seniors live long, healthy lives.

Participants at Western Home Communities will be part of the study for the next year.  They'll be interviewed every few months about their health.

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