Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) is a term used to describe assistive technology that enables people with disabilities or older people to live more independently. Their task is to compensate functional limitations as well as possible in order to make everyday life easier.
This refers to both electronic and mechanical devices that can be operated manually or computer-controlled. This ranges from simple walking aids to high-tech safety systems that automatically switch off the stove when you leave the house, for example, or highly complex butler systems to robots.
What are the benefits of assistive technologies?
Modern assistive technology also allows people with severe disabilities to achieve a high degree of autonomy in everyday life. As life expectancy increases, so does the number of people who want to lead an independent life in their own household in old age. Assistive technologies are particularly interesting for this group.
Age-appropriate help through AAL
Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) is intended to enable people who would be restricted in their everyday lives without these aids to lead an independent and satisfied life – if they walk within their own four walls. The term AAL refers to concepts, products and services that combine new technologies and a social environment.
The aim is to improve the quality of life of the people affected and to minimise the effects of illness or other restrictions. In short, they should not only preserve their personal freedom for longer, but also extend their radius of action. In addition they could relieve the care system.
What systems are there?
Assistive technologies range from simple devices that support mobility or help with daily tasks to continuous monitoring from a distance. There are four application areas in which different technologies are used:
Living, living, everyday life:
- intelligent clothes/smart clothes (built-in electronic devices can check the wearer’s state of health or cushion the impact of falls)
- technical household aids
- motion monitoring
Medicine and health:
- Reminder of taking tablets
- Telemonitoring/monitoring of body data/ vital functions (blood pressure, ECG data, temperature, etc.)
- drinking memory
Communication, social contact, media:
- Read aloud service
- Smart TV (can record favorite shows, you can “borrow” movies from an online video store, etc.)
- Contact maintenance (easy-to-use video telephony)
- Memory Training Games
- Panic button
- automatic emergency call (emergency wristband)
- Sensors in the house (fall detection, water and stove switch-off; control of doors and windows, sensor mats which detect whether there is a risk of falling by means of the aisle)
- Tracking systems (to help locate the person)
- standing aids
On the one hand, there are systems that focus on the treatment of certain diseases. For example, there is monitoring of specific parameters (see below). On the other hand, there are systems that are primarily aimed at a self-determined everyday life. These are primarily used for communication or to detect emergency situations, such as falls, and to trigger an alarm if necessary.
Environmental and behavior monitoring
In environmental and behavioral monitoring systems, the patient is not monitored directly, but his or her environment is. The focus is on identified behavior patterns. This is also the origin of the intelligent home, the “Smart Home”.
This should be able to recognize needs and react accordingly without direct interaction by the user. Here, too, sensors are used to measure the use of devices or the opening and closing of doors. For example, the sleep rhythm or leaving and returning to the house are monitored. If certain threshold values are not adhered to, an alarm is triggered, for example due to inactivity for too long.
“Smart homes” are equipped with various sensors that allow conclusions to be drawn about the patient’s needs. It is important that the Smart-Home recognizes problems or needs independently and reacts accordingly, or that systems are provided that can be operated remotely.
No human replacement
As the demand for nursing staff or relatives will continue to increase in the future, assistive technologies will gain in importance. They can reduce the nursing effort and be a great help when used sensibly. However, the use of assistive technologies presupposes their acceptance by patients, which is why informed consents are obtained. Moreover, they can only live up to their name if they are actually seen only as support and not as a substitute for human attention and assistance.
Monitoring of health data
Such medical systems (for which the term e-health is also frequently used) are mainly used for monitoring chronically ill patients (diabetes, heart failure, etc.).
They measure disease-specific parameters (e.g. blood sugar, heart rhythm) and then transmit them to a server to which the responsible medical staff has access. Either sensors are attached to the patient’s body that measure temperature, blood pressure and pulse – or the patient himself measures his values and enters them in a diary.
Either sensors are attached to the patient’s body that measure temperature, blood pressure and pulse – or the patient himself measures his values and enters them in a diary.
Increasingly, however, external sensors are also being developed in order to minimise the strain on those affected and to make this form of recording “invisible” and “unnoticeable”.