High-Tech Apartment Being Put to the Test as Way to Improve Health Care in Senior Community
Cost of Smart Care living could be offset by lower health care expenses
UTA outfitted the apartment, donated by Lakewood Village Senior Living, by using only a fraction of the grant money. The appliances, furniture, toilet and faucets are products available to the public and were purchased from a Big Box store, which helped keep costs down. The floor was crafted from commercially available interlocking tile, and sensory components designed to produce the necessary data were affixed and wired underneath.
While the cost to equip a Smart Care apartment is significantly higher than a regular unit, the team hasn’t put a price on the return on investment. However, Daniel said the potential for reducing medical costs associated with urgent care could be one way the unit pays itself back.
Lower insurance premiums could be another benefit.
“It’s hard to project how much it will cost,” she said. “Obviously, there would be some monitoring charges. But the idea is that it would offset the cost of health care and multiple trips to the hospital.”
Technology will allow residents to age in place unobtrusively
For now, UTA and Lakewood Village Senior Living Community are working to find a healthy couple in the community to live in the apartment and be monitored 24/7 so that baselines can be established.
Once the team feels comfortable with the performance of the equipment, a couple or resident who has known illnesses would move in. Whomever occupies the unit will have to consent to being monitored around the clock.
UTA officials hope to eventually install the technology in a single-family home, perhaps in a rural community where health care services – and senior living – are farther away than in big cities.
“Ultimately, the goal is to have these technologies in homes so that people could have warning signs if something is changing,” said Manfred Huber, co-principal investigator and professor at UTA’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
As a registered nurse and nurse practitioner, Daniel appreciates that the technology removes some of the necessary manual monitoring of patients. And with a projected shortage of nurses based on aging Baby Boomers and an increased need for health care, Smart Care living is an unobtrusive way to monitor the health of the seniors.
“This knows that you are doing all night long and when you get up,” she said while overlooking what appears to be a typical double bed. “We’ll be able to monitor important parameters about their health and well-being without spying on them.”