With the number of dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers set to double by 2030, there’s likely to be a growing need for technology that keeps the elderly safe and gives caregivers a little peace of mind.
The GPS Shoe, which contains a tracking device in the right heel, is one idea. Launched two years ago, it allows carers to keep up with loved-ones, and in an unobtrusive way. If the wearer leaves the house and wanders outside a designated area, a carer gets an email or text. They can also map the location and call in emergency help if needed.
The shoes, which retail for about $300, were developed by the Aetrex footwear company, along with GTX, a technology company, and come with various service packages. The cheapest starts at about $35 a month, and the shoes are available in six countries, including the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
One barrier to adoption, says Patrick Bertagna, GTX’s CEO, is that people with dementia tend to be suspicious of new products–especially something as personal as a pair of shoes. “One the problems with people who have dementia is that paranoia sets in,” he says. “Introducing new products can be challenging. They reject them.”
This could factor into why GTX has so far only shipped 4,500 units in all–despite good press coverage and general agreement that it’s a good idea. Bertagna hopes a new version–insoles that you swap into existing footwear–will be a more straightforward sell. “If they can keep their shoes, and you slip something in that shoe, it makes it easier,” he says.
The GPS SmartSole will be available from this summer, for between $200 to $300 per pair, with a choice of plans on top of that. For $10, you can call in any time and get a wearer’s location. For $20, you can set up “geo-fences” informing you if someone leaves a designated area. For $30, you can get more updates still.
With all sorts of tags, sensors, and wearables coming on the market, something like GPS SmartSole seems likely to take off. If you’re caring from someone who’s likely to go missing, it makes sense to use technology. We’ll see if the insoles are more successful than the shoes.