Among AgeLab’s equipment is the Aware Car, a red Lincoln MKS wired with cameras, monitors, and sensors that evaluate a driver’s behavior, to improve safety. It’s a test bed for innovations. Nodding off? Cameras and infrared sensors track eyelid movements and direct the driver to pull over and rest. Sensors in the center console also track heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, and might release a spritz of lavender, adjust the air temperature, or prompt the driver to eat a snack.
“Very soon cars are going to be taking a more active role in your safety,” says Coughlin.
For the home, Coughlin’s team uses the same technology that NASA does to track supplies in a space station to track Mom’s medication and Dad’s eyeglasses. Tiny radio frequency tags can be attached to such items, and adult children can track their location and usage on the Web.
The AgeLab’s Smart Trash Can even tracks the weight and material of disposed items to alert adult kids if something is amiss.
Coughlin says the AgeLab’s technologies represent the future of innovation by going beyond simply reacting to a crisis and addressing more than ailments and emergencies.
“It’s no longer about detecting what’s going on in somebody’s house. Rather, it’s about predicting and being proactive about well-being and motivating behavior to ensure overall wellness,” he says. “Innovation is about where we want to be and how to get there, not simply managing where we are today.”
In Tampa Bay, Fla., developer Keith Collins is designing homes and garages where seniors can park their Aware Cars. Since 2000, he has built more than 2,300 senior-friendly homes in the area. His company, New Millennial Homes, uses a concept called universal design to make homes accessible to a range of people, including seniors and those with physical handicaps.
“To build a home, you have to look at demographics and what is a person’s need,” says Mr. Collins, who spent time in a wheelchair after serving during the Vietnam War. Many of his clients simply want to maintain their daily routines – at home, on their own terms, he says.