Red Deer College research technician Drew DeClerck holds an iPod touch

Technology assisting in quality of life

A Red Deer College research team is using assistive technology to improve the quality of life in the community –– one iPod and one GPS belt at a time.

A Red Deer College research team is using assistive technology to improve the quality of life in the community –– one iPod and one GPS belt at a time.

The ongoing study is one of several RDC applied health research projects currently underway that aim to improve health and wellness in communities.

This project examines the areas of daily life young adults with intellectual disabilities, seniors and their care providers may benefit through the use of assistive technology.

Assistive technology is a broad term used for devices or equipment that help people with disabilities including wheelchairs, hearing aids, speech aid devices or computer programs.

Through their research the team has learned there is a gap in assistive technology that helps with leisure activities and social interaction.

“Our goal is to find some technology that might help them achieve that,” said Drew DeClerck, a research technician and 2011 RDC graduate.

The team has selected Apple’s iPod touch and a Canadian made GPS (global positioning system) guided way-finding belt. On the iPod touch, the team will use iPrompts, a downloadable application that helps people through everyday tasks like cooking or scheduling in a step by step using photos and timers.

“It’s very easy for them to follow instructions on their own that they might not be able to do on their own,” said DeClerck.

When a person needs to catch a bus, for example, a photo of a bus stop is programmed to appear.

The GPS guided way-finding belt is worn under clothing. The device will be used to help seniors and those with early stage dementia find their locations.

“A care provider could choose a location on something like Google Maps and program a route to the belt,” said DeClerck. “When the person comes to a location and they are supposed to turn either right or left, it will vibrate on that side of the belt.”

The researchers hope these devices will increase independence and interaction in the community without the fear of getting lost.

DeClerck said the devices also have the potential to improve the quality of life for care givers by freeing up their time and improving the relationship between him or her and the client.

By year’s end the team will start recruiting 60 participants (30 for each device) for community trials. DeClerck, along with two students, are part of the team headed by Scott Oddie, the Rural Health Research chairman and psychology professor Gregory Wells.

The college’s health research projects are made possible through the Health Research Collaborative, a partnership between RDC and Alberta Health Services. Since 2009, teams of faculty and students have worked on 43 projects.

For more information on the assistive technologies project, email DeClerck

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