New technology may make it easier to stay motivated while exercising

Kevin Magna

March 9, 2011

Professor of nursing Patricia Burbank was observing her 97-year-old aunt, who lived independently, when she thought of an idea that could help encourage seniors to stay active during their golden years.

"She loves hearing from her family and personal messages really resonate with her," she said. "How much better would it be to develop a device that could send a loving message and a suggestion to exercise?"

So, with the help of Ying Sun, the University of Rhode Island's director of the biomedical engineering program and Kyle Rafferty, a graduate student, Burbank went to work. The final product, called the Activity Analyzer, stores voice messages from doctors or loved ones so that it can be played during an exercise session.

The messages would play as prompts or reminders. They could be further customized to be tailored to a senior's lifestyle.

Older adults who are living alone may also want to install a medical alarm. This device enables users to immediately send a medical alert to hospitals in the case of an unexpected injury or health condition.

Rafferty said that he hopes to have a fully functional prototype by May of this year.

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