Researchers from Griffith University are recruiting community-dwelling seniors to trial a digital in-home warning system they’ve developed for extreme heat.
Using small sensors, the system monitors temperature and humidity in the home and sends an alert to users when these levels become dangerous, with personalised cooling options.
It’s part of the Ethos Project – Extreme Heat and Older Persons – and features a smart device developed by the team. The aim is to find out older people’s summer exposure to temperature and humidity in the home and identify how acceptable, useable and functional the in-home heat early warning system is, said project leader Professor Shannon Rutherford.
“With this year’s El Niño is predicted to be a scorcher, the Ethos Project is looking for older persons interested in trialling our system this summer,” she said. “The primary benefit of your participation is that this system provides you with real-time monitoring of your environment and assistance to help you to recognise when there is potential for your body temperature to be elevated and how to cool it to a safe temperature,” Professor Rutherford said.
“Other benefits include that the data we collect from your house will help us to better understand the diverse household temperature and relative humidity exposures across the summer period of a range of households.”
The research team is also keen to connect with people working in the aged care space –especially personal aged care workers, gerontologists and geriatricians – to collaborate with and sit on the steering committee.
Extreme heat – which can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke – kills more people in Australia than any other natural disaster. In Queensland alone more than 100 lives are lost each year from exposure to high temperatures, said Professor Rutherford.
Heat can decrease sleep quality, worsen medical conditions and put a greater pressure on the heart, and while heat can impact anyone’s health, people over the age of 65 are at an increased risk of experiencing such health consequences, he added.
The trial this summer is part of a large research project funded by Wellcome that aims to develop an individualised early warning system for heatwaves that can be used across diverse settings.
Findings about how participants engage with the system in this first phase will inform system refinements and modifications for an additional round of trials in phase 2 over summer 2024-2025.
To be eligible for the in-home trials, participants must be:
- at least 65 years old
- living in south-east Queensland
- without a diagnosis of a cognitive or psychological disorder, such as dementia or schizophrenia
- willing to complete a confidential health history questionnaire.
All participants will receive a $50 supermarket gift card at the end of the trial, or a pro-rata payment if they withdraw early. Express interest in participating by calling 07 5552 7903, emailing email@example.com or via the project’s website.
Those interested should not be concerned about navigating new technology, said Professor Rutherford. “Our research team will provide you with continuous support and you’ll have several opportunities to chat with fellow participants and share experiences throughout the trial.”
Main image: the Ethos system base station and sensors