Bridging the Opportunity Divide

With Millions Suffering From Alzheimer’s, This Teenager’s Invention Will Improve Their Safety

October 2, 2014
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With Millions Suffering From Alzheimer’s, This Teenager’s Invention Will Improve Their Safety
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
It'll also give their caregivers some peace of mind, too.

Kenneth Shinozuka isn’t like other teenagers. Maybe it’s because he’s one of the contestants in the Google Science Fair, an international competition for 13- to 18-year-olds, or because he’s the winner of the Scientific American Science in Action Award.

Most likely, though, it’s because of the impressive fact that he just invented a device to ease the lives of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

About 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and, of those, 65 percent are wanderers — meaning that they walk away from their homes and loved ones, sometimes ending up lost or disoriented. Not only is this dangerous for the person with Alzheimer’s, but it causes added stress for caregivers.

Shinozuka’s grandfather is a wanderer. Many times at night, his grandpa will just get out of bed and start walking — oftentimes resulting in accidents. Which is why Shinozuka took matters into his own hands and created a wearable detection device.

So, how does it work?

Well, the device is worn on the patient’s foot, and it detects the pressure every time the patient takes a step. This triggers the wireless audible alarm in the caregiver’s smartphone signaling them that the patient is on the move. The device comes as a sock and a sensor assembly that can be attached to the foot.

Shinozuka used his grandfather as the subject of his six-month-long test trial. The result: Of the 437 known times of wandering, the device detected 100 percent of them. Even better, there weren’t any false alarms.

Currently, Shinozuka is conducting further testing, using nursing home patients as subjects.

Detecting patients’ movements isn’t Shinozuka’s only goal, though. “In addition to solving the originally intended problem, using the sensor to monitor a larger population of Alzheimer’s patients could lead to a fundamental understanding of the causes of wandering and thus ways to mitigate or prevent it,” Shinozuka explains in his project proposal.

Who says that teenagers can’t solve the world’s problems?

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