When my mother’s Alzheimer’s reached critical stage, she got lost the moment she stepped out her door. During one of my last visits to California to see her, we walked out of her small apartment. The day was sunny and warm, but she wore a wool cap and heavy jacket. She pulled her door shut, turned around, and said to me plaintively, hand still on the door knob “I don’t know how to get home.”
Thanks to a 15-year-old inventor, people like my mother will one day be able to retain mobility and a modicum of independence further into their dementia. Kenneth Shinozuka has a grandfather with a mind as mixed up as my mother’s. Sometimes the old man’s wandering leads to accidents. Shinozuka’s aunt has to stay up all night to make sure her father remains safe.
Fortunately, a loving and smart grandson set his considerable intelligence on the problem – and came up with a solution. He invented a sock-based sensor for his granddad. Now, when his grandfather wanders, a tiny (quarter-sized) wireless circuit connected to a smartphone app sounds an alert. The sock is embedded with a pressure sensor and circuit board. Any pressure sets off the alarm.
Shinozuka tested his invention on his grandfather for six months, with 100 percent success and no false alarms. His aunt can sleep through the night, instead of checking on her father every half hour. Now Shinozuka hope to bring his invention to market and is testing it in homes for dementia patients. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development awarded him a $25,000 prize. Scientific America granted him the $50,000 Science in Action Award and a year’s mentoring and flew him to Google’s headquarters for the Google Science Fair competition.
Shinoauka’s invention is unobtrusive, effective and brilliant. It will change lives.
And it all started with love.