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Reducing the risks of independent living

Reducing the risks of independent living

Nursing Professor Carolyn Cason and computer science engineering Associate Professor Manfred Huber are researchers in the Smart Care center, which uses technology to make homes more livable for senior citizens and the disabled.

If we could remain in our homes well past the advance of old age and in spite of major disabilities, we might live longer or at least enjoy a higher quality of life.

At UT Arlington’s Smart Care center, researchers from the College of Nursing and College of Engineering explore ways to extend our home lives. Smart Care is a discovery and demonstration venue for technologies to help senior citizens, people with disabilities, and injured veterans live healthier and longer in their own homes.

Researchers work with business and industry partners to integrate advanced sensors, wireless communication, and other technologies into a simulated home environment, as well as evaluate the usefulness of existing medical monitoring hardware. They also are developing interfaces to connect devices and software that can interpret data and alert health care providers.

With federal start-up funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Smart Care is designed as an innovative model that can be applied throughout the country. U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Arlington, who championed funding for the project, is excited to see what the research will mean for elderly health care.

“Smart Care will reduce costs while allowing nurses and doctors to be more efficient with their time,” he says. “This research will ultimately save lives and money, not only in North Texas but nationwide.”

Kathryn Daniel

Kathryn Daniel, nursing assistant professor

Some of the technologies slated for evaluation in the center are an electronic medication delivery and reminder system integrated into a computer network and a sleep center equipped with sensors to monitor apnea and other sleep disturbances. Others include a health-monitoring toilet that measures the volume and frequency of urine and solid waste and an electronic mat that captures subtle differences in balance.

The team of researchers includes Carolyn Cason, associate dean for research in the College of Nursing, and Associate Professors Manfred Huber and Gergely Zaruba and Senior Lecturer David Levine from the Computer Science and Engineering Department. Kathryn Daniel, a nursing assistant professor and director of UT Arlington’s Adult and Gerontologic Nurse Practitioner Program, is the program manager.

Smart Care researchers will use the University’s Smart Hospital and laboratory space in the Social Work Complex to begin their work. They also plan to build relationships with area retirement centers where technology can be installed. Researchers say Smart Care eventually will be a freestanding facility with a living environment and research stations.

“With a growing senior population and more Americans than ever living with disabilities, technology devices have a promising role in monitoring health data, evaluating rehabilitation, and assisting treatment decisions,” Dr. Cason says. “UT Arlington’s Smart Care can be on the forefront, allowing for more efficient use of these advances and reducing the risks of independent living.”