| Elke Silberer |
AACHEN, Germany (dpa) – Faced with an ageing population and blessed with excellent engineers, Germany is increasingly looking to high technology to make geriatric medicine more effective and less obtrusive.
In the western German city of Aachen, researchers have developed a dehydration sensor to remind elderly people – whose sense of thirst is reduced – when they need to drink something. Not getting enough fluids can have serious consequences for them, including cardiovascular problems, disorientation and a heightened risk of falling.
“Four electrodes are attached to the body indicating the water content in the muscles,” explained Steffen Leonhardt, a professor of medical information technology at RWTH Aachen University’s Helmholtz Institute for Biomedical Engineering (HIA).
Though not yet ready for series production, the dehydration sensor is an example of the trend in gerontechnology – the use of technology to meet older people’s needs – towards high-tech sensors.
“Many university institutes are now engaged in gerontechnology,” which basically aims at preserving the elderly’s self-sufficiency, noted Ralf-Joachim Schulz, executive board member of the German Geriatric Society and chief physician at St Mary’s Hospital in Cologne. He said geriatric medicine favoured early rehabilitation with the use of aids.
A central question, Schulz said, is how to utilise sensors in everyday objects to reliably gather a patient’s medical data. Among the many approaches is a shoe-embedded sensor.
“It tells you how mobile the person is, how the person shifts his or her weight and whether there’s a risk of falling,” he said.