When taking care of elderly loved ones, we have difficult decisions to make. Many seniors would prefer to live in their own homes, but nursing residences offer the kind of round-the-clock support that even the most well-meaning family members and friends can’t provide.

Now, high-tech in-home additions could make life easier for those who aren’t ready for assisted living.

There are already many technologies in the works to help keep seniors independent. But the prototype for an assistant-based module called LISA, created by researchers at Technische Universität München (TUM) in Germany and their business partners, goes a step further by transforming the home into a personalized health center. The two-year project is currently on display in an exhibition at Munich Creative Business Week.

How Does LISA Work?

The system is based around a tablet computer mounted on the wall, which is programmed to perform a variety of tasks. LISA can keep records of important information, such as phone numbers, or remind residents where they've left essential items, such as keys and glasses, using an indoor positioning system.

LISA can also detect health problems in residents using biosensors, and then provide suggestions or contact a health professional for further diagnosis. If you need an ambulance, LISA will send one your way.

Though LISA was designed to be installed in an entrance hall, researchers are hoping to expand the prototype for use in other rooms where seniors may need help, such as the kitchen and bathroom.

How Can This Technology Help Me?

The prototype is still undergoing testing, but if it makes its way into the mainstream, LISA could help to redefine the notion of assisted living. Using LISA, seniors would still have access to the care they need, but could choose when and how to use it.

"We want people to retain as much of their independence as possible," said Professor Thomas Bock of the TUM Chair of Building Construction and Robotics in a press release. "The assistance should only kick in when people are no longer capable of doing something themselves."

LISA proves that old age does not necessarily mean dependence.

How Can I Help an Elderly Loved One?

  • Seniors may be less apt to adopt new technologies because of their attitudes or ability levels. Help a loved one with his or her computer, cell phone, or other home devices to foster autonomy.
  • Know the difference between technological assistance and personal assistance. Devices are no substitute for personal contact through a visit or a friendly call. In-person contact offers seniors a mental health and happiness boost that can’t be overstated.
  • If your loved one is living at home, be there when you can to lend a hand with basic repairs, unloading groceries, and any other chores that LISA can't tackle (at least not yet).

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