Jim’s Place, an Assistive Technology Lab at St. Ambrose

Photo shows a plaque on the side of Jims Place at St. Ambrose University honoring Jim O'RourkeSt. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa has a unique Assistive Technology Lab that’s doing some special things to help people with different disabilities. It’s part of a Masters in Occupational Therapy curriculum that teaches students how to improve lives, and I’m happy to feature the program in this article and its attached video.

Assistive technology is anything used to increase, maintain, or improve our functional capabilities, and we all use assistive technology in one form or another to improve our lives. Examples include eye glasses & contacts, hearing aids, remote controls, cordless phones, computers, bicycles, cars, etc. When these items, tools if you will, are designed for use by anyone regardless of age or ability, we use the term Universal Design, but some of the tools are designed for special needs, such as the wheelchair designed for someone who can’t walk, or the smartphone apps designed for people who are blind. Read More …

Brianna’s Smart House

I just returned from CES 2013, the big consumer electronics show, where I learned about the latest in health & wellness technologies and home automation products that can serve seniors and the disabled and support aging in place, when I saw this story on KCBD News Channel 11. They’ve been following the story of Brianna Graves, an active little girl who was diagnosed at age 9 with Gorham’s Disease, also known as “Vanishing Bone Disease.” Instead of focusing on what Brianna cannot do anymore, this story looks at what she can do from now on.

It’s a heart warming story of how technology and universal design concepts can make life easier – in this case for a young girl with some severe physical limitations.

Brianna controls her environment by moving her lip, as a computer monitors the movement. But just imagine what she’ll soon be able to do with the brain sensing technologies that I saw at CES. I’m excited about the pace of tech innovation and the positive impact on medicine, health care, and wellness. And I’d like to hear your stories of how technology has helped you or a loved one.

The Smart Refrigerator & Smart Medical Device

As I prepare to go to Las Vegas in January, where I’ll attend the Consumer Electronics Show and report on the latest health & fitness products, I’ve been thinking about what sort of products to expect, especially since technology is now being embedded in all sorts of devices, including some that make no sense. That brings me to today’s article.

Rapid advancements in computer, networking and storage technology enable new features at lower cost each year, making older products seem obsolete more quickly than ever before, and one example of that is in household appliances like the refrigerator. But do you really need the latest features if what you have works just fine? Do you really need that $9,000 refrigerator with its built-in, color touch-screen and wireless Internet access? What does it do to justify that cost? And what lessons can be applied to health care? Read More …

Accessibility and Assistive Technology

In March I spent several days at the SXSW trade show promoting accessible web design in the Knowbility booth and gained new perspectives about building websites for accessibility and my own site, Modern Health Talk. While I’ve written many articles here about universal design and products built for various disabilities, actually using that advice myself is a different matter, so it was enlightening to hear how a blind person navigates this site with a screen reader that speaks the written words. I also learned to include text descriptions of photos and images, but sometimes there’s so much content that doing so is difficult, such as with an infographic. And I learned that watching movies & videos can be a challenge for the blind, especially when there’s no dialog. That’s why I was happy to learn that Regal Entertainment Group announced that it’s starting to support special goggles for vision or hearing impaired patrons to they can see captioning that doesn’t display on the big screen or hear video descriptions of scenes with no voice.

Read More …

Independent for Life

Book cover: Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America

order online at University of Texas Press

 

From INDEPENDENT FOR LIFE: HOMES AND NEIGHBORHOODS FOR AN AGING AMERICA
edited by Henry Cisneros, Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, and Jane Hickie, forward by John W. Rowe,
Copyright © 2012. Courtesy of the University of Texas Press.

 

Do you want to age independently in your own home and neighborhood? Staying home, aging in place, is most people’s preference, but most American housing and communities are not adapted to the needs of older people. And with the fastest population growth among people over 65, finding solutions for successful aging is important not only for individual families, but for our whole society. In Independent for Life, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and a team of experts on aging, architecture, construction, health, finance, and politics assess the current state of housing and present new possibilities that realistically address the interrelated issues of housing, communities, services, and financial concerns.

Read More …

What’s new in Smart Home technology?

Smart HouseBy Alex Lane (original article: What is a Smart Home? Samsung’s NaviBot S can clean the low places)

The original Smart Home device has to be the Teasmade, and the textbooks say that a smart home is one that uses home networking technology and your internet connection to automate and simplify everyday living.

It’s the use of networking and broadband connections that takes smart home technology beyond simple home automation, where each device usually stands alone, with its own control system.

Smart home tech is a fast-growing field, from cleaning your house to opening the curtains and switching on the lights. There’s also a growing field of utility and power management, for your gas, water and electricity [and for home health care]. Surrounding them all are unified networking and control systems that can control and monitor all of your devices, not just one for each.

Read More …

U.S. Should Make ‘Life-Long Homes’ A Priority

U.S. Should Make ‘Life-Long Homes’ A Priority – Henry Cisneros

Henry CisnerosBy Judith Graham (original article at Kaiser Health News)

What will it take for Americans to age successfully in place? This question has immediate importance for policymakers and families as an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 years old every day. It’s the subject of a new book, “Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America,” authored by more than a dozen leading aging and housing experts and co-edited by Henry Cisneros, a four-term mayor of San Antonio and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Cisneros, who now runs a company specializing in urban real estate, spent an hour discussing his thoughts about aging in place with reporter Judith Graham. That interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. You start this book talking about your elderly mother.  Tell me about her.

A. My mom and dad bought the home across the alley from her mother’s home in 1945.  It was a lower-middle-class neighborhood of civil service workers — all Latinos. It had the feeling of a Norman Rockwell picture, only all the faces were brown.

My dad passed away in 2006 at age 89, having had a stroke some years before. But my mom, 87, lives there still. The house is essentially the same as it was, with some adjustments. We put a ramp on the side of the house leading to a deck. We raised the toilet, lowered the sinks, created a walk-in shower.  Changed the lighting in the den so my dad could read. Put in window guards, an alarm, and outdoor lighting for my mom because the neighborhood is somewhat in decline. Read More …

Singing in the Shower – More than Accessibility

A great hand-held shower unit hits the right note in any bathroom.

EDITOR: Last September I posted an article about the Universal Design Living Laboratory. Well now the home is finished and its occupants have moved in, so there’s more to write about, including universal bath & kitchen designs and landscaping. You’ll understand later why I so look forward to the article on landscaping.

Singing in the Shower

The shower is something most of us use every day, and it can be a bit challenging when living in a wheelchair. The right handshower can make getting clean an easier and more enjoyable experience.

Read More …

Medical students invent app that checks your symptoms

Craig Monsen and David Do show off Symcat

Craig Monsen and David Do show off their diagnostic tool for consumers.

Craig Monsen and David Do are fourth-year medical students at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine students. According to this article, they recently created a smartphone compatible website that uses big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to analyze your symptoms and help determine the cause.

Using Symcat (symptoms-based, computer-assisted triage), you enter various ailments (fever, rash, cough, swelling etc.) and receive a diagnosis, prioritizing potential causes by likelihood and color-coding them by urgency. As you’ll see in the video demo below, entering and refining the symptoms and medical history is an iterative process, and the results are quite impressive. At some point, if you decide to see a doctor, the system also recommends local practitioners based on their specific specialty and experience.

Read More …

Universal Design: Homes That Work for Everyone

These photos showing Universal Design principles were posted on houzz.com by Kerrie Kelly, a ASID, MBA, and CAPS certified interior designer, certified aging-in-place specialist, author, and thought leader. She collaborates with publishers, manufacturers, homeowners and builders to inspire beauty and simplicity because…Everyone Deserves Great Design. TM Kelly authored “Home Décor, a Sunset Design Guide” published by Oxmoor House. The book was released in September 2009 and is still a defining guide to all styles of home décor. Visit Kerrie at http://www.kerriekelly.com and http://www.kerrielkelly.blogspot.com.

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

Houzz Tour: Universal Design in San Francisco Home

For general contractor Jeff Kann, universal design goes beyond outfitting the space for wheelchairs. It’s about letting people participate in family and community life for much, much longer. Sound universal design avoids premature moves and creates sustainable and safer spaces, she says: “It’s about making the living spaces easier and safer for all ages.”

This remodel was conceived to create a comfortable and expanded living space on the first level of a two-story home in San Francisco’s Sunset district, creating an option to avoid the use of stairs entirely as the clients grow older. In the meantime, the homeowners can use the renovated first level now as a guest suite for visiting family and friends.

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

Home Elevators: A Rising Trend

One of the nicest things my grandfather did for my grandmother was to have a home elevator installed. They lived in a two-story home with the main living area and bedrooms on the upper floor. My grandmother had become frail enough that getting upstairs from their main entrance on the ground level was a daunting task. My grandparents were not wealthy people, and their home was not large — maybe 1,800 square feet. But my grandfather knew how much she wanted to stay in her home, so he put one in. Now that’s love!

Pangaea Interior Design shows examples of the various types of home elevators and discusses their benefits.

 

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

Doorless Showers Open a World of Possibilities

I’ll never forget my first experience with an open shower. On a French-class trip to Paris at the innocent age of 14, I arrived at my hotel tired, jet-lagged and longing for a good, hot soak. I pushed open the bathroom door and looked around, flummoxed. Where on earth was the bathtub? Then I glanced up and gaped: I was standing in the shower, which was just a handheld faucet and a grate in the floor — no tub, no door, no curtain, no threshold. The entire time I was there, I never mastered the art of soaping up and rinsing off without drenching the whole room.

It turns out, the French were onto something. Doorless showers have become a design darling in recent years. Not only do they create an open, expansive feel in a bathroom, but they also lend themselves well to universal design and aging in place. And while they’re a little more sophisticated now than my Parisian puzzler, they still require careful planning. Lisa Frederick shows us eight things to consider if you’re thinking about the doorless approach. (from houzz.com)

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

 

Bathroom Safety Features That Support Your Style

Even if you are fit as a fiddle, it’s a good idea to provide as many safety features as you can in your bathroom. But does a bathroom that incorporates safety into the design have to look like it belongs in a hospital?

Absolutely not! Fixture manufacturers are now offering attractive designs that blend into your décor. Whether you love sleek, minimal design or are hooked on traditional, you can provide safety without sacrificing style. Pangaea Interior Design shows us several examples below, from houzz.com.

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

 

Universal Design: for All Members of the Family

These photos showing Universal Design principles were posted on houzz.com by Kerrie Kelly, a ASID, MBA, and CAPS certified interior designer, certified aging-in-place specialist, author, and thought leader. She collaborates with publishers, manufacturers, homeowners and builders to inspire beauty and simplicity because…Everyone Deserves Great Design. TM Kelly authored “Home Décor, a Sunset Design Guide” published by Oxmoor House. The book was released in September 2009 and is still a defining guide to all styles of home décor. Visit Kerrie at http://www.kerriekelly.com and http://www.kerrielkelly.blogspot.com.

 

Houzz.com — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

 

 

EyeWriter is an eye-tracking device for drawing & writing

EyeWriterALS Patient Tony “TEMPT ONE” Quan and the EyeWriter Device is an article I found at PatientsLikeMe.com, and I found it inspiring enough to share. Below is an excerpt and three  good videos.

For quadriplegics like Steven Hawking, “an eye gaze system – a type of augmentative speech device that translates eye movements into words – can make it possible to communicate with loved ones when speech is impaired or lost.  The problem?  They’re big and expensive, and in many cases, US health insurers won’t cover them.”

. . .

Animation studio owner Mick Ebeling heard about Tony’s case, “founded the Not Impossible Foundation and enlisted the help of programmers and open source activists in creating a low-cost, open-access writing and drawing device for paralyzed patients.  Despite having no background in ocular recognition, they pulled it off. Named one of the top 50 inventions of 2010 by Time, the brilliantly simple EyeWriter device can be made for less than $50.” Read More …

What mobile phone and tablet do you use?

What platforms should healthcare app developers support?

iPhone4s showing Facetime with granddaughterWhile participating in the “What is Mobile Health?” Linkedin discussion that I mentioned a few days ago, an Australian app developer asked me the following question, sensing that I might have a helpful perspective. Because my response might also help Modern Health Talk readers, I’ll include both his question and my reply here.

Hi Wayne,
Can I ask what mobile phone you currently have and use? Do you have an iPad? The reason I ask is I find it interesting to appreciate the technology individuals use and the effects it has on the opportunities we see to advance healthcare.

@David, I have an Apple iPhone3, and both my wife and son (in Dallas) have an iPhone4s so they can use FaceTime video conferencing and we see our year-old granddaughter. On the tablet side, I have my wife’s old iPad after getting her an iPad2 to resolve conflicts over who gets to use it. BTW, she completely quit using her PC after getting the first iPad. Read More …

10 Forecasts for the Future of Healthcare

World Future Society's special report on 20 Forecasts for the Next 25 YearsFORESIGHT may be the single most critical skill for the 21st Century. Knowledge quickly goes out of date, but foresight enables you to anticipate and navigate change, make good decisions, and take action to create a better future.

That’s why I’ve been a member of the Central Texas chapter of the World Future Society for years, where I meet interesting people with widely varied perspectives of the future. It’s also why I participate in so many Linkedin discussion groups on emerging healthcare issues.

The following ten forecasts came from the World Future Society’s special report, Forecasts for the Next 25 Years. It’s a promotional piece to attract new members who then get a subscription to The Futurist magazine.

Forecast #3. Nanotechnology offers hope for restoring eyesight.

Flower-shaped electrodes topped with photodiodes, implanted in blind patients’ eyes, may restore their sight. The “nanoflowers” mimic the geometry of neurons, making them a better medium than traditional computer chips for carrying photodiodes and transmitting the collected light signals to the brain. Read More …

Healthcare Robots – Eldercare in the Hands of Machines

Robots and other assistive technology may be inevitable in aged care moving into the future, but can they replace the human touch? Annie May reports. Reprinted from Aged Care INsite, Apr/May 2011, and expanded greatly since.

Matilda the robot can read emotions

Click image to watch video: “Matilda the robot can read emotions”

Standing at just 40cm tall and looking suspiciously like the latest toy their grandchildren have been dropping hints about for their upcoming birthdays, Matilda the robot doesn’t give the impression that she has much to offer in the way of care for the elderly.

So when placed in front of an aged care resident to talk about her diet, the resident doesn’t have high expectations. But on admitting to having a love of sweets, Matilda is quick to inform her about all the negative health impacts this indulgence can have. Becoming slightly anxious, – whether a result of being lectured by a bright orange robot or at the thought of having to cut back on her sweets – the resident is then shocked at being reassured by the robot.

How can it be that this baby-face robot can read emotions and give a sensitive response? The result of a breakthrough by Melbourne and Japanese scientists, Matilda is one of two robots, the other her brother Jack, which has been developed with ’emotional intelligent’ software.

Read More …

The next steps in Bionics

With the bionic leg, “I go leg over leg,” says Vawter. “The bionic leg listens to the various signals from my nerves and responds in a much more natural way.”

BBC Health News published Two blind British men have electronic retinas fitted this week, and it prompted me to re-post an article from last October, which includes a very good video by CBS News that hinted at electronic retinas. Now it’s starting to happen. I’ll let you follow the link above for details but encourage you to watch the video below for a sense of what technology is enabling for people with disabilities, as well as those who just want to enhance their abilities.

Step by step, bionic engineers are transforming lives in ways that barely could have been imagined until recently.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

eLegs is the creation of Berkeley BionicsThis CBS News story is about bionic limbs that replace wheelchairs, retinal implants that bring sight to the blind, and synthetic telepathy that reads thoughts and transmits them electronically through a computer and wireless network to control bionics or communicate without formal language.