Project of the month: FreeWalker. Ensuring mobility for persons with dementia

This September, the AAL Programme is happy to present FreeWalker, a project from AAL Call 2017 that integrates several components of AAL assistive devices and technologies to create a flexible and versatile solution for guiding and monitoring elderly.

This solution is notable with the fact that it self-adaptive and will calculate automatically “safe zones” where the person can safely go to for walks or errands. As FreeWalker consortium notes, wandering and getting lost for persons with dementia can lead to serious safety consequences. However, with FreeWalker device it will be possible to continue to leave homes and be active with the device functioning as a safety net, addressing an issue particularly relevant during the Alzheimer’s month,  namely retaining one’s mobility and independence for as long as possible even with declining cognitive capacities.

How does it work?

According to the project consortium, the existing GPS trackers in the market are not adaptable as they should be because they rely on fixed predefined geographic zones, which can be limiting one’s freedom. Therefore, FreeWalker develops, tests and validates a monitoring and warning system based on GPS tracking that addresses specifically older adults with dementia and frailty. The FreeWalker system realizes typical walking routes and thereby learns the habits of the primary user to automatically generate an adaptive save-zone around the home.

The finished product will include a localisation device that includes an alarm button and a fall detection device paired with a learning system that dynamically adapts the safe area of the user. This tracker will also have a database with essential information in case of an emergency and an interface for the informal and formal caregivers.

Testing and trials

After a successful mid-term review in Fall 2019, where a first version of FreeWalker based on the co-design results was demonstrated, a web portal has been completed together with the back-end software and the FreeWalker Apps by Spring 2020. Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the first testing sessions in spring 2020 were rescoped from focus-groups to testing with professional personnel of the end user organisations MAS Alzheimerhilfe, Stichting TanteLouise and terzStiftung.

Photo: the Web-Portal with a temporary safe-corridor, automatically generated from a calendar entry of the person, that allows to reach an appointment outside his or her usual walking area.

The project partners now are looking forward to start the pilot operation with elderly persons using the FreeWalker system in their real life situation, which is planned to run until Spring 2021.

Good luck and looking forward to see the results!

Learn more about the project here:

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