The Korea Herald


GPS shoes for Alzheimer’s patients to hit US


Published : Oct. 24, 2011 - 09:59

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The first shoes with built-in GPS devices -- to help track down dementia-suffering seniors who wander off and get lost -- are set to hit the US market this month, the manufacturer says.

GTX Corp said the first batch of 3,000 pairs of shoes has been shipped to the footwear firm Aetrex Worldwide, two years after plans were announced to develop the product.

The shoes will sell at around $300 a pair and buyers will be able to set up a monitoring service to locate “wandering” seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services who was an adviser on the project, said the shoes are likely to save lives and avoid embarrassing and costly incidents with the elderly.

“It’s especially important for people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s who are at the highest risk,” Carle told AFP.

“They might be living in their home but they’re confused. They go for a walk and they can get lost for days.”

Carle said studies indicate more than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, a number expected to quadruple in the coming years. He said 60 percent of sufferers will wander and become lost and up to half of those lost who are not found within 24 hours may die, from dehydration, exposure or injury.

Other devices such as bracelets or pendants can provide similar protection but seniors often reject these.

“The primary reason is that paranoia is a manifestation of the disease,” Carle said. “If you put something on someone with Alzeheimer’s that they don’t recognize, they remove it. If it’s a wristwatch and it’s not their wristwatch, they will take it off. So you have to hide it.”

The GPS system, which is implanted in the heel of what appears to be a normal walking shoe, allows family members or carers to monitor the wearer and to set up a “geofence” that would trigger an alert if the person strays beyond a certain area.

The shoes are being developed by GTX Corp., which makes miniaturized Global Positioning Satellite tracking and location-transmitting technology, and Aetrex. They received certification from the Federal Communications Commission this year for the system.

The makers say the market for such shoes is growing, given the soaring costs of Alzheimer’s.

“This is a significant milestone for both companies and while the $604 billion worldwide cost of dementia has become and will continue to be a significant fiscal challenge, the under $300 GPS enabled shoes will ease the enormous physical and emotional burden borne by Alzheimer’s victims, caregivers and their geographically distant family members,” said Patrick Bertagna, chief executive of GTX Corp.

Professor Carle said the original idea was to develop the shoes for children and long-distance runners but the makers changed the plan when he offered his advice, noting that the devices can also help ease a lot of anxiety about seniors who want to remain active.

“They feel a need to walk and it is good for them,” he said. “They should take a walk. It’s good for them.”

<한글 기사>

치매 환자용 GPS 장치 부착된 신발 출시

혼자 돌아다니다가 길을 잃은 알츠하이머 환자를 쉽게 찾을 수 있도록 위치정보시스템(GPS) 장치를 부착한 최초의 신발이 이달 중  미국에서 출시된다.

소형 GPS 장치 제조업체인 GTX가 신발회사 애트렉스(Aetrex)와 공동 개발해 내놓은 이 제품은 한 켤레에 약 300달러(약 35만원)에 판매된다.

이 프로젝트를 기획한 앤드루 칼 조지메이슨대학 교수는 GPS 신발이 위험한 사고로부터 소중한 생명을 구할 수 있다고 강조했다.

그는 "가장 위험한 알츠하이머 초기 단계 환자들에게 특히 중요하다"고 말했는데 이 부류의 환자들은 "길을 잃어 며칠씩 집에 돌아오지 못할 수 있다"는 설명이다 .

칼 교수는 미국 내 알츠하이머 환자가 500만 명 이상이라면서 이 가운데 60%가 길거리를 헤매다가 집을 찾지 못하며 길을 잃고 24시간 이내에 발견되지 않을 경우 절반 정도는 탈수증이나 체온 저하, 사고 등으로 목숨을 잃는다고 덧붙였다.

그는 또 GPS 장치를 팔찌나 목걸이 형태로 만들 수도 있지만, 알츠하이머 환자들은 자신의 몸에 알지 못하는 물건이 부착돼 있으면 떼어내려는 경향이 있어 이러한 장치를 숨겨야 한다고 설명했다.

GTX는 알츠하이머의 사회적 비용이 커지고 있어 자사 제품에 대한 수요가 점점 늘어날 것으로 기대했다.

칼 교수는 애초 어린이나 장거리 달리기 선수를 위한 신발을 만들려고 생각했으나 제조사가 자신의 제안을 듣고는 바깥 활동을 하고 싶어하는 알츠하이머 환자들에 게 큰 도움이 될 것이라고 제안해 계획을 바꿨다고 말했다.