February 21, 200 — University of Virginia researchers participated recently in a briefing and technology demonstration before the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging. The briefing's purpose was to review how technology could address the problems of aging, especially to promote independent living. Investigators from U.Va.'s Medical Automation Research Center provided an exhibit and live demonstration of sensors that can monitor an individual's health status at home. The center's research is supported by a pilot research grant from U.Va.'s Institute on Aging.
During the next two decades, the United States will face a doubling to tripling of people over the age of 60, challenging health care systems nationwide. New technologies may help many older people to live more independent lives, often in their own homes.
Such technologies include motion/location sensors, vital signs monitoring, blood and imaging diagnostics, analytic software and Internet data transfer to care networks. This reduces the need for office visits and some hospitalizations by, in effect, bringing the resources of the health care team into the home.
At the Jan. 30 Senate briefing, U.Va. presented the NAPS (Non-Invasive Analysis of Physiological Signals) system, which are non-invasive, low-cost sensors that can assess and improve an individual's health status at home. The NAPS system is simply embedded in a mattress pad to monitor vital signs such as body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate and movement.
U.Va.'s Institute on Aging is a pan-university initiative sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. It promotes basic and applied research on topics related to aging, serves as an information and education resource about aging issues, and seeks to influence the development and implementation of public policy that addresses the needs of older adults. The institute offers seed-money grants to stimulate new research and educational programs, and sponsors lectures and conferences for scholars, service providers and the community at large.