“I like to read, write and think. I was always kind-of a bookworm.”

Mary Ruiz, 76, lives alone in her apartment.

“I go to the grocery store. Sometimes I go to the doctor; sometimes, the library. Mostly things I want to do,” Ruiz said.

She says she enjoys living life on her own terms at her age.

“Everybody likes their home,” Ruiz said.

As an independent senior, she’s part of the University of Washington’s study looking at how older adults can live independently longer with the help of technology.

“I think it will help a lot of seniors,” Ruiz said.

UW research assistant Yong Choi outfitted Ruiz’s home with different sensors.

“Multi-sensor here tracks temperature, humidity, luminosity and motion,” Choi said.

These small devices are available at most hardware stores. UW researchers designed the software to interpret the data they generate to be easy to understand and relevant to seniors.

Ruiz picks what she wants and where to put them.

Door sensors track how often she comes and goes from the apartment, and bedroom sensors help track behavior patterns.

“It’ll get the trend when she goes to bed, when she wakes up,” Choi said.

Ruiz says this sensor made her aware of “night owl” patterns.

“I’m working on that because I see that as an issue. I’d rather be a day person,” Ruiz said.

In her living room, environmental sensors track humidity.

“I found out the humidity level in my apartment was lower than that of most of the other people in the study, and I realized that could lead to other problems like allergies and infections,” Ruiz said.

Fixing the problem with a humidifier, Ruiz says the atmosphere feels much better now.

Data sensors are put on the cloud.

Doctor George Demetris, who is leading the study, designed the algorithms to analyze the information.

“For example, if there is a lot of motion in this area, you’ll see the points change color,” Dr. Demetris said.

Although family members and clinicians could monitor data in real-time, that’s not the point.

“In some cases, you can easily identify a problem. in other cases, you have data that prompts you to look further into what that problem may be,” Dr. Demetris said.

The idea is to offer a proactive approach to catch possible health or behavior issues at an earlier phase.

“Another hypothesis we have is if you intervene earlier, you can prevent the occurrence of a catastrophic event,” Dr. Demetris said.

A humidity issue with a simple solution is the beginning of what this study could show. Researchers say the results are promising and hope these smart-homes for seniors enable them and families to continue living their final years exactly how they want.

“I’m having a lot of fun. I have a lot of friends,” Ruiz said. “It’s a good life.”

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