As Baby Boomers age, the number of Americans 85 and older is expected to triple from 2010 to 2050. Some people are concerned that there won’t be enough in-home health care providers and nursing homes to meet the demand.

Fortunately, more and more technologies are being developed to meet the needs of aging adults and help them successfully age in place. Researchers at Washington State University have developed a smart home system that not only monitors aging loved ones, but can also learn.

The system analyzes all the data it receives and learns to recognize patterns in the senior’s behaviour. It then detects any changes in condition so that corrective action can be taken right away. For example, if a senior starts to have trouble walking the system can recognize this and alert the senior so he or she can get an appropriate mobility aid and avoid falls. Or if a senior starts taking a new medication and their sleep pattern changes, something they may not even be aware of themselves, the system could inform their doctor of this side effect. It can even recognize changes in cognitive ability; people’s patterns become more erratic as they develop dementia.

n addition to recognizing important pattern changes, the system also offers prompts to compensate for memory loss, such as reminding users to take their morning medication at breakfast.

According to the project lead Professor Diane Cook, the project is “a lot to take on, but it’s fun to work on and it’s really compelling… And I want it to be available to help me.”