Hugh Pickens writes "Gerontologists say 'aging in place' vastly improves the quality of life for seniors, and is a lot cheaper for society than group homes and institutions. The trick is to do so without jeopardizing the health and safety of older people, which is why 480 people are taking part in pilot programs in Portland, Oregon that outfit homes with technology so elderly people can be monitored for illness or infirmity. With the first wave of baby boomers turning 65 this year, corporations such as Intel see lucrative new business opportunities tending to a generation of people accustomed to doing things their own way. As part of a test, Dorothy Rutherford's two-bedroom condominium has been outfitted with an array of electronic monitoring gear that might eventually find its way to retail shelves. Motion sensors along hallways and ceilings record her gait and walking speed. A monitor on her back door observes when she leaves the house, and another one on the refrigerator keeps tabs on how often she's eating. A special bed laced with sensors can assess breathing patterns, heart rate and general sleep quality, a pill box fitted with electronic switches records when medication is taken, and a Wii video game system has been rejiggered so that players stand on a platform that measures their weight and balance. But there is the downside, as some experts on the aging population worry that making it easier for elderly people to stay in their homes could reduce the incentive for children to visit or could create a false sense that technology can foresee every problem and address every need."
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