How can we improve the safety of Alzheimer's patients?

Kenneth Shinozuka, United States, 2014 award winner

Kenneth in New York City

Kenneth lives in New York City and loves spending time outdoors exploring, but above all he loves solving problems. Since he was six years old, Kenneth has been figuring out ways to help his aging grandparents, from preventing falls to taking the right medications. So, when his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he jumped in to help.

As a lover of technology, I never get tired of dreaming in my small bedroom about the next big innovation.

The idea

Kenneth’s grandfather soon began getting up at night to wander in and out of the house. His aunt tried to stay awake, but could never catch him before an accident occurred. Kenneth was inspired to find a simple way to detect his grandfather’s movements at night.

After witnessing his grandfather step out of bed, Kenneth wondered if placing a sensor on his foot could detect his movement as soon as it happens.

The test

Kenneth was faced with two challenges. First, he had to find a pressure sensor thin and flexible enough to walk on. And second, designing a wearable circuit that could send out a remote signal when a certain amount of pressure was applied. He created two prototypes and tested them on his grandfather every night for six months.

His prototype detected 100% of the 437 known cases of wandering and issued alerts within one second after the initial step.

Kenneth testing with a breadboard.
Kenneth viewing data on a mobile phone.
My device has caught 100% of my grandpa’s wandering. And he no longer has accidents. It’s brought my family peace of mind.
Kenneth sitting in a nursing home.

The outcome

Kenneth’s wearable sensor was a huge success, so much that he is now testing the technology in nursing homes. In addition to solving his grandfather’s issue, he’s using the sensor to further study Alzheimer’s patients to understand the causes of wandering. And someday, he hopes his exploration into engineering and neuroscience will help him find a cure for Alzheimer’s.