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Mobile Sensors Track Health of Elderly in Pilot Test
Date:7/13/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- A small pilot study of wireless mobile sensors used by a group of retirees suggests the technology may be useful in detecting meaningful changes in seniors' health, researchers at Dartmouth College report.

Eight elderly residents in a continuing care community, whose average age was 85, wore the waist-mounted, two-inch sensors for 10 days while the devices continuously measured such factors as time spent walking, sitting, standing and speaking with other people. These everyday behaviors often reflect physical and psychological health and potentially predict health problems, like depression or dementia, study author Dr. Ethan M. Berke said.

Men spent 21.3 percent of their time walking and 64.4 percent stationary, the study said, while women spent 20.7 percent of their time walking and 62 percent stationary. Time spent speaking with others was linked to mental health and social interaction scores, which were compared to participants' answers on four established questionnaires on health, physical activity, depression and friendship.

The sensor data in the study correlated strongly with the results of the four questionnaires, the investigators found.

"It's an easy jump to imagine other populations using this as well," said Berke, director of the Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth's Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H. "Our ability to sense and understand the behaviors . . . has been correlated with established metrics. Certainly we need to do much larger, more robust studies to see that these [results] correlate as strongly as they do."

The study was published in the July/August issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

While the sensor used in the study was a free-standing device, most smart phones could be outfitted to detect physical activity and mental cues, Berke said. Resul
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