Not All Who Wander Are Lost

GPS, A-GPS, and RFID Devices May Make “Silver Alerts” a Thing of the Past


Advances in technology are creating a world in which ‘Aging in Place’, as an alternative to entering a nursing home or assisted living facility, is moving from the realm of Idea to that of Reality for many.

Technologies designed with the elderly and their caregivers in mind abound and are continually making it easier for people to remain in the comfort of their own homes, confidently. GPS, A-GPS and RFID location devices, for example, can help families and caregivers who look after those who may be prone to wandering off and/or becoming disoriented, those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other related diseases, by providing real-time coordinates of a loved one’s whereabouts in the event of a Silver Alert. Many such devices are available on the market now and work in conjunction with apps that can be downloaded directly to smartphones, tablets, personal computers, and the like. Small and discreet, they can be attached to personal affects, clipped to clothing, or even carried in a pocket. Some can even be inserted into shoes. Prices range from around $300.00 to $600.00.

A bit of science: while autonomous GPS (Global Positioning System) utilizes radio signals from satellites alone, A-GPS (Assisted Global Positioning System) additionally can use network resources (like cellphone towers) to calculate position. In places where there may be interference from physical features like trees and buildings, this can help to fix a person’s position more quickly. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) incorporates the use of electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency (RF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to uniquely identify a carrier. If more information in this area is desired, comparisons and contrasts pertaining to accuracy, reliability and battery life are easily found online by doing a quick keyword search.

All of the available devices, however, target one purpose: contributing to the overall safety and well-being of the aging population.

Not all who wander are lost… anymore. Or at least they don’t have to be.

















Anemia and Dementia

Although Alzheimer’s disease gets a lion’s share of the news about dementia, we know that Alzheimer’s is but one form of the condition. Now, a recently reported study has identified a link between anemia and dementia.

The body experiences anemia when there are not enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout. When the brain is not getting enough oxygen, cognitive abilities decline. Lack of proper nutrition, kidney disease, blood disorders and cancer are some of the conditions that can cause anemia.

Hearing Loss and Dementia

Seniors recognize that as they age certain abilities will become diminished, but never consider that some of these could lead to memory loss.

With that in mind and a focus on hearing issues, research began. In 2011, the results were published, stating that “the researchers found that study participants with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end. Compared with volunteers with normal hearing, those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss had twofold, threefold, and fivefold, respectively, the risk of developing dementia over time. The more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing the memory-robbing disease.”

Depression Can Affect More Than Just The Brain

Back in the early 1990’s Duke University research found that brain scans of depressed elderly subjects showed quicker loss of brain volume compared to those that did not suffer with depression. Researchers reported that the accelerated aging went beyond the obvious unhealthy habits such as diet and lack of exercise.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, writer Shirley S. Wang reported that medical science is finding more and more that psychological disorders are showing up as diseases in the body, not just in the mind. Diseases that would normally be associated with old age are showing up in younger individuals who have dealt with or who are dealing with depression, psychological stress and post – traumatic stress disorder for long periods of time. To name a few, these diseases include dementia, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. (An earlier article, Mental Health in Later Life: A Guidebook, may be found on the Care for You website.)