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E-HEALTH: TWENTE TELELAB HELPS SENIORS STAY INDEPENDENT

Many elderly people dread becoming so reliant on care services that remaining in their own home is no longer an option. They have to move into a retirement home, where all the necessary care is available around the clock but at a price: residents must adapt their routine and give up some of their freedom. The Twente Telelab sets out to delay this move, or perhaps even make it unnecessary altogether.

The brand new Twente Laboratory for Telemedicine is a partnership of researchers, private sector companies and healthcare professionals. It will develop new applications to help the elderly stay in their own homes for longer. There are various forms of accommodation for the elderly, ranging from individual sheltered housing to a wing of a retirement home in which residents are reasonably independent, or a department with round-the-clock nursing care. The differences between them are great. A person's sense of self-worth and contentment will depend heavily on the degree of self-determination they can retain.

When a patient who has recently been discharged from hospital needs assistance in resuming an independent life as quickly as possible, the necessary devices can be installed in the home in a matter of hours. There are, for example, sensors which will check that the air above the stove is indeed getting warmer when the gas is turned on, or monitors which notify staff if a light is left on for a long time during the night. They can then phone the resident to check that nothing is amiss.

Cameras which register movement can also help to protect residents against hazards in the home. If the resident stays in an unusual location for too long, the control room will be notified. Of course, privacy is an important consideration. Few people would want cameras recording their every movement. In this system, the sensors and cameras do not take actual images, but merely recognize patterns.

For further information, see www.telelab.nl (in Dutch).