A new smart mobility aid designed by a student is giving dementia patients the ability to live independently for longer, potentially reducing the strain on the overburdened care sector.
Loughborough University announced that final year industrial design student James Bayliss has created the new system, titled AIDE.
It said that, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK, one million people in the UK will have dementia by 2025 and this will increase to two million by 2050, making the development of such technology a growing priority.
The AIDE system comprises a smart walking stick, a wall charger, and a series of Bluetooth beacons that are placed around the home.
The product tracks a person’s daily movements in the home and identifies any unusual actions, communicating this data to the beacons.
Using pattern-recognition software and machine learning, this data is turned into a ‘behaviour map’.
AIDE can then identify unusual behaviour – for example, if a person is in the bathroom for much longer than usual, or if the stick moves in a certain manner, which may suggest a fall – and then alert the care network via an app so someone can make contact with the person with dementia.
Designer Bayliss commented: “This system allows the care network to be able to intervene if something goes wrong without having to be present the whole time. It’s about creating a safety net.
“In my early research, it became very clear from speaking to members of care networks for people with dementia that a cohesive approach to care is what allows people with dementia to feel comfortable in their own space and allow them to continue to align with their sense of self, and as an extension of this, their own independence.
“Currently, the undertaking required to orchestrate and organise all of the independent actors that make up a care network is massively stressful for the primary carers and can feel very disjointed for the person with dementia – AIDE aims to streamline this.
“This project is a product of a large amount of research and design development that has allowed me to understand and explore the problems and pain points that are experienced by people trying to retain independence within their own home whilst dealing with the progression of dementia.
“I would hope that this rigorous process has yielded a product proposal that could genuinely make a difference for both those who have dementia and the care network they have around them.”