Brainstorming & Sketching
Led Primary Research
Our concept is a wander tracking device that provides a proactive response for elderly individuals living in memory care facilities. This device is a wearable watch, embedded with a heart rate sensor, a vibration motor and equipped with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) transmitter. The watch is programmed to vibrate along with transmitting the wearer’s heart rate to the nurses’ station when the senior diagnosed with memory loss is within a certain distance of the facility’s exit door. The vibration is designed to deter the disoriented senior from leaving.
There is a problem of elopement in memory care facilities/senior living properties. Elopement refers to leaving a safe place, usually attempted by individuals suffering from memory loss. In these properties, individuals live in a safe, protected environment, but because they suffer from memory loss, they do not know where or why they are there. This lack of awareness and confusion frightens the individual causing them to want to leave or “escape”.
Research & Insights
We conducted primary research by interviewing the president of Allegro Senior Living, Inc and a certified optometrist. Based on the information that was received from the president, elopement is a widespread problem in the industry. Each memory care facility is equipped with reactive measures to alert staff of any potential elopement in progress. After the staff is alerted, it is then their responsibility to re-orient the senior. We noted that a significant reason for using reactive rather than proactive measures is caused by fire safety regulations. The facilities doors are opened one of two ways: with the use of an employee code/key fob, or manually holding the door’s emergency push bar for fifteen seconds. The latter is required for fire safety measures.
The optometrist explained what happens to the human eye as someone ages. The aging eye begins to see more yellow and looking through the center of the eye becomes more difficult. Colors and movement of an object can also alter as the eye ages.
We concluded that re-orienting the senior and creating a proactive, rather than reactive security system would be most beneficial. Based on the interviews from the optometrist, constraints such as vision and hearing impairment were factored into the design.
Idea Generation & Iterations
We began by generating ideas about different technology seniors would feel comfortable using. The president of Allegro Senior Living, Inc expressed that many seniors wear watches daily. This influenced the physical look of the watch. We decided to incorporate older watch models as to make the watch seem familiar.
The front of the watch would look like an ordinary watch, however, the back side would house the RFID transmitter and heart rate monitor. The back of the watch would be covered, not exposing the modern technology.
We developed a seven-zone system:
The first zone is the safe zone; this accounts for the part of the facility that is not near an exit door.
The second zone will issue a strong vibration to the intruding watch along with signalling the nurses’ station with the door number, the patient number and the patient’s heart rate.
The third zone is simply a small buffer to allow the resident to turn around and leave the area near the door.
The fourth zone activates sporadic one-second vibrations. This is to create an uneasy feeling for the wearer and prevent movement toward the door.
The fifth zone triggers a second alert which is sent to the nurses’ station with the patient information and their heart rate.
The sixth zone will also activate constant vibrations with varying lengths that are quicker and also meant as a deterrent to departure.
The seventh zone is the space right in front of the door and the door itself. While standing at the door, the watch will continue to vibrate along with sending an alert to all nurses of the senior's location.
...how important constraints are to design. This project included many constraints, which influenced the way my team and I approached the problem. The new constraints required more iteration of our design. Without constraints, I would not be able to accurately design a practical device for our target audience.