Can your home keep you healthy?

"Can your home keep you healthy?"

That was the question I posed at a recent Housing LIN North West region meeting, where I delivered a presentation on Salix Homes’ innovative Mii-Home initiative - a pioneering research project (opens new window) involving a unique partnership between the health, housing and academic sectors in Salford.

The project aims to find a way to help older people who are frail maintain their independence in their home for longer by constantly monitoring their welfare using artificial intelligence and sensors. 

We’re trying to see if by using affordable sensing technology available on the high street, we can detect indications of deterioration in a person’s health through changes in their behaviour – by building up patterns of their movement and behaviour.

"Can your home keep you healthy"? Affordable sensing technology, easily available, could be used to measure changes in a person's health.As highlighted in the recent NHS Long Term Plan, the success of the NHS and social care system todays means we are all living longer, but with chronic multiple illnesses.  70% of the Salford population live in areas classified as highly deprived or disadvantaged and the health and wellbeing of the population of Salford is well below the national average. 

It is projected that in Salford by 2035 the number of people aged 65 and over will be 50,600, and 16,919 will have a limiting long-term illness. So for everyone involved in the Mii-Home project the question for us is; how do we solve the problem of preventing prevent people being admitted to A&E, and helping people stay healthy for longer at home and not ending up in hospital or worse?

So what are we trying to achieve? Mii-Home is trying to find out if we can utilise mainstream technology to provide an accessible and affordable solution to an ageing population by focusing on frailty and we have two objectives:


  • to evaluate the effectiveness of using Microsoft Kinect Technology for the remote monitoring of older people in their home
  • to assist clinicians with the assessment of performance of activities of daily living in the periods between hospital clinic visits based on the historical data collected with the Microsoft Kinect and analysed by our proposed system

At a basic level, sensors based on Microsoft Kinect Technology, most commonly associated with the X-Box, are being placed in the homes of volunteers to measure motion activity and detect if there has been a change or deterioration in their behaviour. 

We are trying to see if this can be achieved through monitoring posture and movement and using algorithms to detect changes that could mean their health is deteriorating, for example changes in how someone gets out of chair, or the fact they have to start to hang on to furniture as they move around.

We are trying to look for changes to normal patterns of behaviour.  The key point is that older people often live alone so these tell-tale signs often get missed until it is too late. 

We are then trying to assess if artificial intelligence software can analyse these patterns and ultimately predict a decline in health requiring action.  Alerts would be sent that signal that an intervention is required.  These alerts could be to carers or relatives; care-on-call or others as part of a support network and this triggers an intervention by the usual care pathways.

Smart buildings by themselves aren’t smart.  It is the collection of data, the processing of that data and the analysis of this data, by getting it into a format that is easily accessible to clinicians, which is smart.  By trying to use the data to understand a person’s behaviour, and through this their health, we can then use this to either change the behaviour of the tenant or fit the right support plan around them.

This isn’t about replacing people or trying to replace what is happening already such as warden or scheme managers and telecare systems, but it’s in addition to current methods of analysing a person’s health status. It has the potential of providing rich data in a real-time format to help make better, informed decisions about a person’s health and wellbeing.  The important point is that this data is coming from a person’s home.

Long-term, the aim of Mii-Home is to be an early warning system, a predictor, acting as a guardian angel allowing health professionals to step in before a catastrophic event happens, thereby enabling older people to live independently for longer and ease the burden on the NHS. 

Our ambition for the future is that our project shapes how technology in the home can be used for promoting independence for older people. It will offer better health and social care outcomes for our residents, provide an improved experience for services users and carers across the housing and the health and social care sectors and ultimately both help us to utilise our housing and related support services more effectively and deliver wider health and social care efficiencies.


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