HER mother's sole caregiver, Ms Doris Oo used to worry constantly when she had to leave the elderly woman alone at home to go to work.
"I used to call back during lunchtime to check on her," recalled the 50-year-old pre-school teacher.
But things changed when Ms Oo and her mother, Mabel Chen, 78, who has high blood pressure and diabetes, had a sensor system installed in their one-room Yishun flat last year, as part of a trial by the Housing Board.
Developed by HDB and four small and medium-sized enterprises, the Smart Elderly Monitoring and Alert System was placed in 12 rental flats in Woodlands, Yishun, Clementi and Marine Parade from June to November last year.
It uses motion sensors to track the habits of the elderly at home. When irregular patterns occur, such as an unusually long period of inactivity, the system alerts caregivers via text messages. It also comes with a portable panic button, which an elderly person can press to alert family members in times of distress.
The new technology has proven popular so far, with all 12 households supporting its use, according to an HDB survey.
Ten of them felt that it was elder-friendly and easy to use, while two were neutral.
During the test period, eight elderly users triggered the system, and the longest time taken for caregivers to respond was five minutes.
The survey also showed that eight of the households felt the system does not compromise their privacy, while the other four remained neutral.
"I'm not at home most of the time, so this really helps very much," said Ms Oo, who usually works from 7am to 8pm. "I'm much less worried about (my mother) now."
Madam Chen added: "It's good to have this in case I fall or something happens to me. I feel safer."
For the system to work, a two-room flat typically uses four motion sensors, while three sensors are needed for a one-room flat.
Commercial firms will provide this service to residents for a fee which will be worked out later, said HDB.
HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said: "Smart technology helps to improve the lives of residents.
"In this instance, it enhances the safety of our elderly residents and offers their children greater peace of mind."
The alert system is part of the Smart HDB Town Framework, one aspect of which aims to equip public flats here with the digital infrastructure for "smart homes", so that residents can save energy or control appliances with their mobile phone, for example.
The first of these homes will be launched in two housing projects in Punggol Northshore during the upcoming sales exercise in May.
Said Dr Cheong: "Moving forward, HDB will continue to explore innovative ideas and partner the industry to develop solutions that residents can consider adopting for their HDB flats."
Source: My Paper © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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