Youth’s ‘smart’ invention helps elderly and their caregivers

 

TEEN HELPS ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS — High school student Kenneth Shinozuka (left) created a sensor to help keep track of his grandfather, Deming Feng, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and has a tendency to wander. The sensor transmits a signal to the caregiver’s smartphone. photo by James Xue

TEEN HELPS ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS — High school student Kenneth Shinozuka (left) created a sensor to help keep track of his grandfather, Deming Feng, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and has a tendency to wander. The sensor transmits a signal to the caregiver’s smartphone. photo by James Xue

Two years ago, Kenneth Shinozuka’s grandfather began wandering at night, resulting in accidents. Shinozuka witnessed his aunt struggling to stay up at night to watch over her father, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

The 16-year-old Shin-Nisei realized that his family is far from alone. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some 5.2 million people suffer from the disease, and some 60 percent of those with the disease wander.

Shinozuka was unable to find a solution to help his family monitor and keep his grandfather Deming Feng  safe, but he ended up creating one himself. 

After two years of work, Shinozuka, a junior at Horace Mann School in New York, created a wearable sensor to help his family keep his grandfather safe. 

Once the patient steps on the floor, a sensor that’s worn on the bottom of their foot detects the pressure that’s caused by their body weight. The sensor sends an alert to the caregiver’s smartphone. 

Shinozuka read up on the technology and spent more than eight months testing his two prototypes on his grandfather, with a “100 percent success rate.”

Shinozuka has received national accolades for his work, which he has patented.

Earlier this year, the Davidson Institute awarded Shinozuka with $25,000 for his project, “Wearable Sensors: A Novel Healthcare Solution for the Aging Society.” The nonprofit Davidson Institute for Talent Development’s Davidson Fellows Scholarship program honors students who are 18 and under.  The institute held a reception Sept. 26 in Washington, D.C.

Shinozuka also received $50,000 for winning the Scientific American Science in Action Award, which is powered by the Google Science Fair. 

Shinozuka has “always been very passionate about sensors,” he told the Nichi Bei Weekly.  When he was 6 years old, he witnessed an elderly family friend suffer an injury after falling in the bathroom. Shinozuka had hoped to create a “smart bathroom” to detect when seniors have fallen, he said. 

Shinozuka recently tested his sensor at an assisted living facility in Irvine, Calif. Shinozuka also plans to work with Keiro Senior HealthCare in Southern California, to further test the sensor.

Keiro learned about Shinozuka’s work when a staffer read about the sensor in a news article. Dianne Kujubu Belli, Keiro’s chief administrative officer, held a video chat conversation with Shinozuka, which allowed her to witness the device in use. 

Kujubu Belli and her colleagues were “amazed” by “how effective it is, how simple it is.” 

Kujubu Belli has tried different monitors within her own family, but said Shinozuka’s “will be much more effective.” 

Next January, Keiro will connect Shinozuka with seniors within the community who have agreed to beta test the sensor. 

Keiro is looking forward to the process, as “we believe that technology is a great tool to deploy in facilities, but also to assist families and seniors in aging in place in home,” Kujubu Belli said. 

Shinozuka’s next step will be to “commercialize” the sensor, making it available to those who need it. In order to do so, he is seeking business mentors to help him market his sensor. He also noted that he has had “the great support of mentors” who have guided him in the project. 

Over time, Shinozuka hopes to “develop my technology into a low-cost kit that will enable people to monitor their own health in the comfort of their own home by detecting changes in their walking patterns, such as the time interval between steps and the distribution of pressure on the user’s feet, which have been found to correlate strongly with one’s healthiness,” he said in his biography. 

Meanwhile, Shinozuka is busy completing his high school education. During his spare time, Shinozuka, an Eagle Scout, enjoys hiking and camping. He is also a member of his school’s varsity debate team, and serves as the editor-in-chief of his school’s magazine.  

Additionally, he is preparing for college. Shinozuka said he is considering pursuing the field of neuroscience, as he is interested in the “mysteries of the brain,” and “how to find cures to conditions like Alzheimer’s.”

 

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