Assistive Technology to Enhance Safety and Autonomy of Dementia Patients at Home:
Most dementia patients have a strong desire to live autonomously in their known environment as long as possible. This often leads to trade-offs between the patient’s desire to live at home and the risks that increase with the progression of the cognitive decline. In combination with existing (i.e. Spitex) and new (i.e. ambulant old-age psychiatry) clinical and social caregiving approaches, assistive technology can play an important role in reducing risks associated with independent living. In this project we develop and evaluate a new assistive technology system that meets the specific needs of elderly patients with cognitive impairment. One key feature of the new system is that it works in the background and it does not require active interaction between the system and the supported patient. It measures environmental data (e.g. light distribution, movement patterns) and uses this information to detect unusual situations (e.g. falls, wandering), to estimate the patient’s wellbeing, to assess the patient’s ability to cope with activities of daily living, and to predict short- and long-term risks. Currently, the system undergoes testing in the homes of healthy test persons to evaluate its ability to recognize activities of daily living. This project is funded in part by the Bangerter-Rhyner Foundation.
The Age-Dependent Effect of Night Driving on Visual Performance and on Simulated Driving Behaviour:
Both younger and older drivers are challenged by reduced vision in low-light conditions as they occur during night driving. Contributing factors are age-related increased glare sensitivity and decreased mesopic visual acuity. We assume that the visual exploration behavior under mesopic light conditions is an important predictor of driving performance. In this project, the age-dependent influence of mesopic vision, cognition, and comorbidity are evaluated regarding their influence on visual exploration behavior and on simulated driving performance. In collaboration with the Haag-Streit AG (Köniz, Switzerland) and with the support of the Haag-Streit Foundation, we are developing a screening tool for the Octopus 900 perimeter that will support and enhance “fitness-to-drive” assessments and decisions. Recently, the new test setup has been evaluated in 120 healthy test persons of all ages. The study revealed significant age-effects in the recognition rate of peripheral targets. Current work focuses on new tests to measure higher visual functions and on the integration of the new tests into the commercial perimeter.
Cognitive Performance and Driving Behaviour in Older Adults:
The objective of this study is to better understand how cognitive performance and aging influence individual driving behavior and traffic-related risks. We have developed a dynamic, computer-based test battery to measure driving-relevant cognitive and motivational competences such as processing speed, decision making, anticipation of speed, and motion perception. The test and the human-machine interface are specifically developed for elderly people and the system is intended to serve as a screening tool to assess driving-relevant cognitive performance. In a study of 100 participants, we could show good correlation between the new computer-based tests, accident history and simulated driving performance. For that purpose, a commercially available driving simulator has been modified to study simulated driving behavior of elderly drivers while measuring neurophysiological parameters (e.g. eye movements, skin conductance). Based on these findings, we intend to derive cognitive training schemes that help older people to maintain driving relevant cognitive skills as long as possible. This project is funded in part by the “Fonds für Verkehrssicherheit”.
Safmove – Safe Mobility of the Elderly in the Vicinity of their Home and on Journeys
This EU-project has two aims. The first one is to develop new means to improve and maintain cognitive performance and to prevent cognitive decline as long as possible. Hence, in collaboration with other European and Swiss researchers, we develop home-based cognitive and physical trainings based on innovative gaming platforms (e.g. Wii and Kinect) and specifically developed serious games. We will place a special focus on adaptive difficulty levels, allowing error-free learning that is expected to increase motivation, fun, and self-confidence. The second aim is to develop a navigational device that provides context- and location-based information and aids during outdoor activities. We expect that these two measures will help to breach the negative cascade of avoidance, i.e. by the fear of failure during cognitive challenges, which is commonly observed in patients with cognitive impairment.
Street-Crossing Behaviour of Younger and Older Pedestrians and Car Drivers:
Crossing a street as pedestrian or driver is a challenging task that requires gathering information over a large area. The challenge is to acquire the necessary information for a decision of when to cross within a limited window of time. To better understand how the acquired information leads to a crossing decision, we have modified the driving simulator to study street- and intersection-crossing behaviour.
Besides better understanding the influence of cognitive impairments on mobility and traffic participation, we also aim to develop new means to improve and maintain cognitive performance and prevent cognitive decline as long as possible. In collaboration with other European and Swiss researchers, we develop home-based cognitive and physical training based on both innovative gaming platforms (e.g. Wii and Kinect) and specifically developed serious games. We will place a special focus on adaptive difficulty levels, allowing error-free learning that is expected to increase motivation, fun, and self—confidence.