Harnessing AI in Elderly Health Monitoring


Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer


Engineers at the University of Waterloo have developed a way to revolutionize elderly healthcare by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and wireless technology to enable remote health monitoring for seniors.

The long-term life expectancy in the UK is rising, and with this rise, comes a plethora of unique opportunities and challenges for public healthcare systems. 

According to MHA UK, about 4 million older people suffer from a limiting long-term health condition (of which 40% are aged 65 and over). It is estimated that this will likely rise to over 6 million by the next decade. 

Caring for the elderly can come with unique challenges. Older people are faced with numerous challenges in their everyday lives—including physical limitations and mobility problems arising due to chronic and long-term illness, cognitive decline, and the aspect of social isolation that impacts their life and well-being. 

Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) technology can help healthcare systems address these challenges as they come. 

Engineers at the University of Waterloo have found a way to harness artificial intelligence (AI) and wireless technology to aid the elderly population and empower healthcare systems through remote health monitoring. 

The system works by following an individual’s activities at home and gathering health information—without them ever needing to wear a dedicated monitoring device to capture vital signs. 

“After more than five years of working on this technology, we’ve demonstrated that very low-power, millimetre-wave radio systems enabled by machine learning and artificial intelligence can be reliably used in homes, hospitals and long-term care facilities,” explained Dr George Shaker, adjunct associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UWaterloo. 

Shaker added that the system can be used to inform emergency services about unprecedented health circumstances for a prompt response. 

“An added bonus is that the system can alert healthcare workers to sudden falls, without the need for privacy-intrusive devices such as cameras,” he elucidated. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

The system includes a modem-like wireless transmitter that sends low-energy waveforms within interior spaces—such as a living room or a bedroom in an apartment. The waveforms are fed to an AI engine via a dedicated receptor, which monitors for any unusual movements and alerts care workers for timely intervention. 

“Currently, the system can alert care workers to a general decline in mobility, increased likelihood of falls, possibility of a urinary tract infection, and the onset of several other medical conditions”, Shaker extrapolated. 

According to the researchers, their proprietary system overcomes the existing limitations of gait-monitoring devices—such as affordability and energy efficiency. The system, owing to its compact form factor, can be mounted on a wall or a ceiling, and does not require frequent re-charging. 

A paper highlighting the findings of the research has been published in the IEEE Internet of Things Journal.