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SMART APARTMENTS: Today, the population of most developed societies is greying.

In Ottawa, the number of people aged 65 or more is set to double over the next 20 years. Health officials are looking for ways to help older adults live independently at home.

They hope “smart” apartments will be a big part of the solution.

The Elizabeth Bruyère Health Centre and Carleton’s University’s faculty of engineering
have been working on a prototype smart apartment at Elizabeth Bruyère for about five years.

The prototype is a one-bedroom apartment with a living room and kitchen. Everything in the apartment – bed, couch, fridge and bathroom – is wired and fitted with hidden sensors. Sensors track resident’s sleeping and breathing patterns, muscle strength and whether the fridge door is opened or closed. Fibre-optic pressure mats embedded in floors monitor mobility. At night, bedroom sensors light a path to the bathroom so the resident doesn’t trip on an object and fall.

There are no cameras and no pictures. Only data images are recorded.

“The beauty of smart-room technology is that it is unobtrusive,” said Rafik Goubran, dean of the faculty of engineering and design at Carleton University. “You don’t see it, but it is there to make sure you are safe.”

Dr. Frank Knoefel, vice-president of medical affairs at Elizabeth Bruyère, says that he hopes some of the smart-room technology products will be ready for commercial use in five years. Source: Ottawa Citizen.


MOVING ON FROM COPENHAGEN: After the disappointment of the climate change conference in Copenhagen last December, it was time for reflection.

Mike Hulme’s recent book Why We Disagree About Climate Change (Cambridge University Press) offers us a way to kick-start the conversation.

Drawing on three decades as an international climate scientist, Hulme rejects both the language of “imminent peril” and a single action blueprint for the world.

In 10 illuminating chapters, he explores the history and the social meanings of climate change. He shows how our beliefs, hopes and fears and the ways we are governed shape our different attitudes to the question – and make it difficult for us to agree about climate change.

This rare book emphasizes broad issues:

our duties to the planet;
how we make individual and collective decisions; and
the need for economic structures to support climate justice.

The Economist included Why We Disagree About Climate Change among its top book picks for 2009.


MEDICAL NUGGETS: Want to boost your medical literacy? Check out the Therapeutics Initiative at the University of British Columbia. Established in 1994, this group does independent assessments of the effectiveness and safety of drugs. The Therapeutics Letter offers information on a wide range of issues.


OPTIMUM WORKFORCE NEEDS OLDER WORKERS: According to a new study, the optimum workforce is made up of a mix of older and younger workers. And researchers say it’s time to ditch the stereotypes.

Gary Charness, an economics professor at the University of California (Santa Barbara) and Marie-Claire Villeval of the University of Lyon have found older workers are no more risk adverse than younger workers and are typically more cooperative.

The study compared how “seniors” over age 50 and “juniors” under 30 behaved during a series of on-site experimental games and tasks. Participants were drawn from two large firms.

Mixed aged groups outperformed homogenous groups in the study.

Researchers say employers may need to think about new ways to motivate and retain older workers. Source: The New York Times Magazine.