Older people could soon be able to live more safely at home for longer thanks to an X-Box.
The popular gaming technology has been adapted as part of a pioneering research trial taking place in Salford– dubbed MiiHome, which aims to monitor elderly people’s wellbeing using artificial intelligence.
The project is a collaboration between social housing provider Salix Homes, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, The University of Manchester and The University of Salford.
X-Box Kinect sensors, which detect movement, have been fitted into a number of properties at Salix Homes’ sheltered living schemes, which provide accommodation for older people.
The sensors track 25 points on a participant’s skeleton and researchers hope that by monitoring the data, they will be able to identify changes in movement and behaviour, which could indicate deteriorating health.
Jonathan Drake, service director at Salix Homes, explains: “The idea of MiiHome is that it acts as a sort of ‘digital guardian angel’ which is able to detect changes in behaviour that could mean something is wrong, for example someone’s gait may have slowed down, or they may be getting up more than usual in the night.
“This isn’t about replacing people with technology, it’s about having an early warning system in place that will enable a health professional to step in and provide the right sort of care before the situation escalates.
“It costs our already over-stretched NHS more than £2,000 to keep someone in a hospital bed for a week, so we hope that by utilising mainstream technology, MiiHome will provide a realistic and affordable solution to enable elderly people to live safely in their homes for longer and reduce the pressures on the NHS and other care services.”
The first part of the study has seen a small group of older people monitored for three months, and the data collected is now being examined to identify patterns in behaviour.
Salix Homes tenant Lily McEwan, 89, suffers from mobility issues and was one of the first people to sign up for the trial.
She said: “I’ve lived in my home for more than 30 years, and I’ve always said from day one that I don’t want to end up in a care home – my independence is important me. I do have quite a lot of falls at home, so I was happy to take part in the study – if it helps more people in the future then it can only be a good thing.”
Mr Drake added: “During the trial Lily did actually suffer a fall at home. Thankfully she was ok, but her data is now being examined to see if there were any changes in her behaviour or movements leading up to the fall that could enable health professionals to predict when a fall may occur in the future and step in before the worst happens.”
A larger research trial involving more than 100 participants across Salford will take place later this year.
Dr Anthony Hodgson, dementia clinical research development and delivery lead at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We are at the very beginning of this journey, but we want to develop a system where we can detect significant deterioration in a person’s health.
“This would mean we could react appropriately and avoid the more serious problems that could result when things continue to deteriorate, perhaps unnoticed. We hope that this will result in fewer people needing help in emergency or even an admission to hospital.”
If successful, it’s hoped this type of sensor technology will one day be part of the fabric of the future home, especially if that home is supporting an older person who lives alone.