It can be a source of tremendous concern for the families of dementia patients that their loves ones could become disoriented and perhaps even lost when out and about. A company in Japan has come up with a novel solution to this: a GPS tracking device embedded in a pair of comfortable shoes.
According to Japanese site GBMC, the Kyoto-based company Dokodemo, which designed the shoe with built-in global positioning, was inspired by their very own patients. Dokodemo, meaning “anywhere” in Japanese, also runs a franchise of nursing homes, and the shoes started out as a prototype solution to help keep wandering senior dementia patients safe.
The shoes, branded “GPS Dokodemo Shoes,” incorporate a GPS terminal in the left heel that can enable family members or nursing home staff to locate the wearer by synchronizing the GPS signal with a cell phone, tablet, or computer.
Family members can even set up GPS-tracking e-mail notifications on a smartphone.
“With more than 3 million people with dementia in Japan,” reads the company’s product manifesto, “urgent measures are needed to prevent missing people from wandering around […] It would be good if one could save [a] life by selling these shoes.”
Global positioning technology that can be embedded in pendants or watches, maintains Dokodemo, is not as effective as a pair of shoes could be owing to the wearer’s propensity to remove them.
GPS Dokodemo took to Twitter to announce their new fall shoe line on Sept. 17, 2019, stating that the price per pair was 25,000 Japanese Yen (approx. US $226). To date, the shoes are only available to purchase from Japan.
According to the Dementia Society of America, as of 2020, an estimated 9 million Americans are living with some form of dementia diagnosis. Dementia is an umbrella term used to denote a group of symptoms that affect a person’s cognitive functions, predominantly in the faculties of memory and reasoning.
— GPSどこでもシューズ@認知症徘徊対策 (@docodemoGPS) July 13, 2016
Dementia is considered to be the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and stroke, in high-income countries. The condition can be difficult to manage, even in an expertly staffed residential care facility.
Could GPS Dokodemo Shoes be the answer that distressed nursing home staff workers and worried relatives have been looking for?
In an opinion piece for Forbes magazine, healthy-ageing expert Carolyn Rosenblatt suggested that the shoes would work well as a supplement to caregiving, alongside an appreciation for the fact that some ageing relatives with dementia should not be left alone to wander in the first place.
“I am concerned that technology can give the adult children, particularly those living at a distance, a false sense of security,” Rosenblatt writes. “Technology is wonderful at helping us, but it can’t take our place.”
Dokodemo’s GPS Shoes are not the first technological gadget designed with dementia sufferers in mind. According to Alzheimers.net, a plethora of home aids exist to help improve the quality of life for people suffering degeneration of their memory and reasoning faculties.
Those living with dementia have the option to try “talking mats,” a communication aid utilizing pictures and symbols to represent feelings; motion-activated verbal reminders, and even home care robots.
Ultimately, caring for an ageing relative with dementia is a multifarious task with the loved one’s safety and well-being at the forefront of every consideration. The best solutions might well employ both human support and technological gadgetry in tandem; only time will tell whether the GPS shoe will reach consumers worldwide.
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Author: Louise Bevan