How dementia-detecting cameras can support ageing populations

Japan leads the way as technology plays a key role in an ageing world

CORRECTION / TOPSHOT - In this Japan Pool picture received via Jiji Press on February 12, 2020, 112-year-old Japanese man Chitetsu Watanabe poses next to calligraphy reading in Japanese 'World Number One' after he was awarded as the world's oldest living male in Joetsu, Niigata prefecture. The 112-year-old Japanese man who believes smiling is the key to longevity has been recognised as the world's oldest male, Guinness World Records said on February 12. - Japan OUT
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Technology can play a vital role in supporting growing social care demands as more people live longer into old age.

The UAE's population is ageing quickly, with healthcare improvements and long-term visas allowing more to grow old in the emirates.

And Japan could be the example to follow when it comes to caring for the elderly, with specialist cameras mooted as a solution to help safeguard those with dementia.

The focus on elderly care has gained momentum due to the UAE's predominantly youthful population and its significant health advancements
Prof Abdel Rahman Omer, group medical director at Burjeel Holdings

National data shows that, for the first time, 10 per cent of Japan’s 125 million population are aged 80 or older, with almost 29 per cent older than 65.

Technology developed by Ridgelinez Limited – a subsidiary of Fujitsu – uses AI to allow medical professionals, care staff, or trusted members of communities to provide better care for those with dementia by analysing camera footage based on their walking patterns.

“The technology is not intended to diagnose but rather to offer professionals entrusted with the well-being of the elderly a new tool to offer better, less invasive care,” Dr Akira Kato, industry group manager at Ridgelinez, told The National.

“The technology helps users identify people with gait characteristics of those with dementia or cognitive decline, which might include narrowed stride length, shuffling feet, hunched posture or slightly parted legs."

Dr Kato said the cameras would be effective in "areas where elderly people with dementia are active in their daily lives" but the technology would be "mainly used in settings including nursing homes and residences, with a special emphasis on privacy".

Dementia-inclusive society

Researchers at Ridgelinez worked alongside Japan’s National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Centre Hospital and Noel, a Nagoya-based developer of AI solutions, to develop the highly accurate human motion analytics-sensing technology to created a new algorithm for scanning and identifying gait data.

The technology was initially developed as the foundation for Fujitsu's judging support system, a gymnastics scoring method used in international competitions, in partnership with the International Gymnastics Federation.

“The aim is to realise a society where elderly people with dementia can be better supported by detecting them based on their walking patterns and discreetly offering them help, as outlined in the Japanese government’s vision of a dementia-inclusive society,” said Dr Kato.

“Theoretically, existing CCTV systems could be retrofitted with the technology.

“We will first focus on a system that can be used for Japan’s society in accordance with Japanese law and guidelines, and think we might then be able to expand the technology to other countries, of course following rigorous due diligence to ensure compliance with ethical frameworks, cultural preferences and personal privacy.”

As part of the goals of the Dubai Social Agenda 33, the emirate aims to enter the ranks of the world’s top 10 cities for life expectancy by 2033.

Targets include enhancing healthcare and adopting advanced nutritional methods that promote lifelong health and vitality.

Expanding green spaces, establishing more bike lanes, offering additional opportunities for outdoor sports activities and redesigning neighbourhoods to enable residents to shop and work closer to home are all potential solutions to improve healthy ageing.

Elderly care focus

Prof Abdel Rahman Omer, group medical director at Burjeel Holdings, said integrated services of preventive and curative medical care would be critical.

“The focus on elderly care has gained momentum, albeit later than other initiatives, due to the UAE's predominantly youthful population and its significant health advancements,” he said.

“The implementation of disruptive innovations, facilitated by AI, has significantly enhanced elderly care services.

“Future infrastructure development will rely on advanced technologies, such as location trackers, remote monitoring and treatment systems, and communication devices, in place of outdated methods like CCTV.”

Ageing population trends have led to an increase in the numbers diagnosed with dementia.

As identified in the latest Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, risk factors include high body-mass index, high fasting plasma glucose and smoking.

Meanwhile, research in The Lancet Public Health estimates a global increase in the number of people with dementia, from 57.4 million cases in 2019 to 152.8 million cases by 2050.

Dr Mehak Singh, a specialist at the Canadian Specialist Hospital in Dubai and a King’s College London fellow in stem cells and regenerative medicine, said isolation is a contributing factor that must be addressed.

“Healthy ageing is a big part of regenerative medicine and functional medicine but it is also something that not a lot of people can afford,” said Dr Singh, who has worked in the UK’s NHS and in the Indian healthcare system.

“Loneliness is the biggest driving force, in the UK, for example, if it is not a family-centric society, like in India where it is more common.

“In Indian society, care homes are looked down upon.

“If you left your parents alone there, it's not something that is very socially acceptable.”

Global plan

Backed by the UN General Assembly in August 2020, the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021-2030 plan highlights the central role of policy change in promoting healthy ageing, including dementia care.

A global action plan calls on nations to establish a focal point responsible for dementia and ageing within health ministries.

So far, only 26 per cent of countries have achieved qualifying criteria within health systems to provide adequate support for ageing populations.

“Each country is different in the way older people are cared for and the price of services and medication are also a factor – in India this kind of health care is much more affordable,” said Dr Singh.

“Leaving people on their own without their family support can be a trigger for other health problems.”

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Updated: April 14, 2024, 4:47 AM