Squaring the Life Curve: How Can Robots Help?

Friday, February 17, 2017: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 309 (Hynes Convention Center)
Marjorie Skubic, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
To older adults, aging in place means having the functional ability and independence to choose where and how they will live in their later years in order to maintain a high quality of life. In this talk, we will discuss the needs and challenges facing seniors as they age, and highlight the experience we have had in using technology to support aging in place. The discussion will include a model of the typical aging trajectory in terms of functional ability, and a goal for proactively changing this trajectory by "squaring the life curve." Home monitoring systems have been shown to change the trajectory by detecting very early health changes so that early treatment can be offered, thereby allowing older adults to maintain function and independence. For example, a change in walking gait can predict whether an older adult will fall three weeks before it happens, allowing those at risk to get physical therapy to avoid a fall and its serious injuries. Home monitoring systems can also track physical activity patterns. Higher levels of physical activity are linked to better cardiovascular health, which lowers the risk of physical as well as cognitive health problems. A challenge to the robotics community will be presented for using this information to create synergies between machines and humans, to encourage older adults to move more rather than giving them excuses for not moving. This continued activity can promote better health, and offer hope for older adults who want to age in place.