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Last Update: 2007-03-28   Source: Star Projects
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Independent Living

There are many people who cannot care for themselves in their everyday life: they could be elderly, have recently undergone surgery or be suffering from an incurable, degenerative disease. The situation can put a lot of strain on friends and family and reduce the quality of life for those concerned. The use of specially designed technology could be the answer in aiding the handicapped and the elderly to regain their independence.

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Stefan Sundin is a suffering from multiple sclerosis and is bound to a wheelchair. His wife has been under a lot of pressure, taking care of her husband around-the-clock. Now Stefan has a speaking diary that notifies him when to take his medication, when he should phone his doctor and even when to eat. His potential to be alone is improved through a network of CCTV cameras and sensors, set up throughout the house. Now Stefan can see who is at his front door on his television and then open the door (depending on who is there) from wherever he is in his home.

The Swedish Handicap Institute is currently home to the European research project Monami. Their aim is to set handicapped and elderly people free from their total dependence of others. They find personalised solutions, not just based on the type of disease but also on how independent the handicapped person wishes to become. Some people want to retain a level of dependence in the interest of contact and social interaction.

It is no surprise that an elderly woman who recently had heart-bypass surgery requires a helping hand. When Anna Lisa Jacobssen wakes up she is routinely told the time and date. Her reading is assisted with a magnifying mouse. An interactive cooking book advises Anna Lisa what to make and how to cook it. Lights, blinds and curtains are all automated for easy control. Furthermore, for added reassurance, a warning system at the front door tells Anna Lisa when a tap is left running or if the oven is left on. If she then goes out of the front door, the water or the oven is automatically turned off.

For Rainer Metzmacher, a victim of Parkinson’s disease, the prime benefit from such technology is that he has more leisure time, rather than travelling repeatedly between his home and his doctor. Three times a day he must perform special exercises in front of a digital camera, while he hears recorded instructions. Since the video is sent to Rainer’s doctor via a modem, diagnosis and the controlling of medication levels can be done by the doctor alone.

This specially developed technology has the potential to change the lives of many. Its use will not just make them happier and raise their standards of living, but finally return to them their freedom and feeling of independence.


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Jan Hens
European Commission,
Information Society and Media DG,
Information and Communication Assistant,
Information and Communication Unit (S3),
Tel.: +32 2 29 68855

Unit A1 - External & internal communication,
Directorate-General for Research & Innovation,
European Commission
Tel : +32 2 298 45 40