Ambient assisted living

With the aging society, more and more people live through old age with chronic disorders and mostly manage to live independently up to old age. Data indicates that half of the people above the age of 65 years have a disability of some sort, which constitutes over 35 million people in the United States alone. Most people want to preserve their autonomy, even in old age, and maintain control over their lives and decisions. Assistive technologies increase the self-dependencies of patients, encouraging user participation in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to provide remote care services type assistance and provide information to healthcare professionals. Assistive technologies are experiencing rapid growth, especially among people aged 65–74 years. Governments, industries, and various organizations are promoting the concept of AAL, which enables people to live independently in their home environment. AAL has multiple objectives including promoting a healthy lifestyle for individuals at risk, increasing the autonomy and mobility of elderly individuals, and enhancing security, support, and productivity so people can live in their preferred environment and ultimately improve their quality of life. AAL applications typically collect data through sensors and cameras and apply various artificially intelligent tools for developing an intelligent system. One way of implementing AAL is using smart homes or assistive robots.

Smart home

A smart home is a normal residential home, which has been augmented using different sensors and monitoring tools to make it “smart” and facilitate the lives of the residents in their living space. Other popular applications of AAL that can be a part of a smart home or used as an individual application include remote monitoring, reminders, alarm generation, behavior analysis, and robotic assistance.

Smart homes can be useful for people with dementia and several studies have investigated smart home applications to facilitate the lives of dementia patients. Low-cost sensors in an Internet of Things (IoT) architecture can be a useful way of detecting abnormal behavior in the home. For instance, sensors are placed in different areas of the house including the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom to ensure safety. A sensor can be placed on the oven and detect the use of the cooker, so the patient is reminded if it was not switched off after use. A rain sensor can be placed by the window to alert the patient if the window was left open during rain. A bath sensor and a lamp sensor can be used in the bathroom to ensure that they are not left on.

The sensors can transmit information to a nearby computing device that can process the data or upload them to the cloud for further processing using various machine learning algorithms, and if necessary, alert relatives or healthcare professionals. By a daily collection of patient data, activities of daily living are defined over time and abnormalities can be detected as a deviation from the routine.

2.6.2. Assistive robots

Assistive robots are used to support the physical limitations of the elderly and dysfunctional people and help them by assisting in daily activities and acting as an extra pair of hands or eyes. Such assistive robots can help in various activities such as mobility, housekeeping, medication management, eating, grooming, bathing, and various social communications. An assistive robot named RIBA with human-type arms was designed to help patients with lifting and moving heavy things. It has been demonstrated that the robot can carry the patient from the bed to a wheelchair and vice versa. Instructions can be provided to RIBA either by using tactile sensors using a method known as tactile guidance to teach by showing.

Cognitive assistants

Many elderly people experience a decline in their cognitive abilities and have difficulties in problem-solving tasks as well as maintaining attention and accessing their memory. Cognitive stimulation is a common rehabilitation approach after brain injuries from stroke, multiple sclerosis or trauma, and various mild cognitive impairments. Cognitive stimulation has been demonstrated to decrease cognitive impairment and can be trained using assistive robots.

Social and Emotional stimulation

One of the first applications of assistive robots and a commonly investigated technology is companion robots for social and emotional stimulation. Such robots assist elderly patients with their stress or depression by connecting emotionally with the patient with enhanced social interaction and assistance with various daily tasks. The robots vary from being pet-like robots to more peer-like and they are all interactive and provide psychological and social effects. The robotic pet PARO, a baby seal robot, is the most widely used robotic pet and carries various sensors to sense touch, sounds, and visual objects. Another robot is the Mario Kampäi mentioned earlier, which focuses on assisting elderly patients with dementia, loneliness, and isolation. Yet, another companion robot Buddy, by Blue Frog Robotics, assists elderly patients by helping with daily activities such as reminders about medication and appointments, as well as using motion sensors to detect falls and physical inactivity. Altogether, studies investigating cognitive stimulation seem to demonstrate a decrease in the rate of cognitive decline and progression of dementia.