More freedom for people with dementia will soon be a reality

Deployment of dynamic safety zones for people with dementia will become a reality in the near future. In the FreeWalker project, we have completed the co-creative phase with a care organisation to develop dynamic safety zones. The resultant recommendations will be implemented by companies in eHealth technology.

What are dynamic safety zones?

Dynamic safety zones are an advanced version of the static safety zones currently used by healthcare organisations. With static safety zones, a person with dementia can be located by GPS detection, for example, via a wristband. When he leaves the zone, the system automatically sends a message to relatives, the healthcare professional or the client himself. This control mechanism provides more freedom of movement for people with dementia who are living at home or in a nursing home.

Accuracy is very important

Unfortunately, GPS is often still inaccurate. Take for example, a car navigation system, which may sometimes indicate that the driver is located on a service road, while he is actually on the parallel highway. Not a major disaster for the driver, but for a caregiver it makes a lot of difference if he thinks his father with dementia is walking safely on a footpath, while he is actually on the busy road next to it.

Combining techniques increases accuracy

In the FreeWalker project, we are combining techniques, which makes the system more accurate and enables the technology to be used indoors as well as outdoors. Furthermore, by tracking the movement behaviour of the user, it can also become a learning system. This allows the safety zone to adapt more and more to the user’s agenda and personal situation.

Black-out within the safety zone

Currently we are fine-tuning the dynamic safety zones in co-creation with the Dutch elderly care organisation, ‘Tante Louise’. For example, a nursing home resident plays cards every week on Monday evening. It is preferable that no alarm goes off when the card evening takes longer than usual. It could also happen that someone is in a safety zone while having a black-out and not knowing where to go. This is often indicated by a certain behaviour pattern in which a person moves a few steps forward and then backward. When the system detects this pattern, it is eligible that the alarm is set to go off.

Link to AMBER alert

We are also discussing the extent of the space around the zone. Sometimes someone will walk towards or just over the edge. In this case, it is not preferable that an alarm goes off immediately. It is much more logical to make clear to the person with dementia that he has to turn around. When someone clearly passes the safe zone and the alarm does go off, the question is how to follow up on this. The AMBER alert system that ‘Tante Louise’ uses could provide a solution. We will therefore link this system to this technology.

About FreeWalker

FreeWalker is an AAL project, a joint financing program that includes 13 countries including Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Poland and Slovenia. Together these countries are developing projects to respond in time to demographic developments, with ageing in particular. The aim is to develop and market innovative, ICT-based solutions for older people and their environment.

More information

Contact for this project:
Henk Herman

Senior advisor