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Teen Develops SafeWander: Innovative Alzheimer's App

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerApril 27, 2015

It is estimated that three out of five people with Alzheimer’s will wander at some point after being diagnosed with the disease. Wandering can lead to serious injury and even death, and 16-year-old Kenneth Shinozuka may have found a solution to protect loved ones with Alzheimer’s at night.

Learn more about wandering in people with Alzheimer’s and the newest solution to the problem, created by a teen who resolved to keep a loved one with the disease safe.

SafeWander: Protecting Loved Ones Who May Wander

Wandering is common among people with Alzheimer’s and many caregivers would tell you it is something that causes them great stress.

People with Alzheimer’s can easily become disoriented and confused, and the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that about 60% of people with Alzheimer’s will wander. They also estimate that of those who wander and are not found within the first 24 hours, up to 50% will suffer serious injury or even death.

16-year-old Kenneth Shinozuka is no stranger to the consequences of a person with dementia who wanders. When Shinozuka was four years old, he got lost with his grandfather in a park. As his grandfather’s condition worsened over time, wandering and its consequences have been a constant source of worry for his loved ones.

Shinozuka is now a student at the Upper West Side’s Horace Mann School and he has used his personal experiences with Alzheimer’s and caregiving to create an app to keep loved ones who may wander safe. The app, called SafeWander, uses a motion sensor to detect movement and then sends an alert to caregivers. The system has a sensor, a transmitter and a smartphone app. When the person with Alzheimer’s gets out of bed and steps on the floor, the sensor will send an audible alert to the caregiver’s smart phone. According to their website, it is the first wearable sensor system for detecting wandering.

The Future of SafeWander

Shinozuka has had oustanding results from testing his app with his grandfather at home and then at retirement communities. He won $50,000 at the 2014 Google Science Fair and put that money towards further devloping his app and preparing it for public use. Shinozuka was also invited to the 2015 White House Science Fair as an exhibitor.

According to The White House Blog Post:

“During six months of use, the device detected every instance when Kenneth’s grandfather got out of bed at night, without any false positives, ensuring his whereabouts were always known.”

While the app and its system is still in development, there are high hopes that this young and ambitious inventor will make a serious impact on improving the safety of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia while also giving caregivers a peace of mind.

Would you purchase the SafeWander app and system for a loved one? Do you think it could help you protect a loved one who may wander? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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