October 18, 2010

CHINA: In Shanghai, GPS stands for Granny Pinpointing System

SHANGHAI, China / CNNGo / Shanghai / Life / October 18, 2010

Shanghai's wandering elderly are being tracked with GPS wristwatches

Shanghai's bringing a high-tech solution to its aging population: GPS tracking. .

Shanghai is getting old. By 2020, a third of the people in Shanghai will be 60 or more, according to population experts.

The local government recently announced plans to help those most at risk. It is exploring high-tech solutions to provide more services for seniors, specifically those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The Shanghai Civil Affairs Department is working with Hongkou District on a pilot program, equipping seniors suffering from dementia with GPS devices. If the seniors equipped with GPS trackers get lost when away from home, their caregivers will be able to track them and bring them home safely.

"Protecting elderly people, especially those with mental health problems, by keeping them from wandering off, has long posed a major challenge for those trusted with their care. We often get reports that an elderly person is lost, or has wandered away from home, and some have even died from it," said Gong Linglin, deputy director of Hongkou's office in charge of aging-related problems, to reporters.

If an elderly relative walks away from home, reports China Daily, a text message will be sent to the person’s appointed guardian.

GPS trackers are increasingly part of everyday life from cell phones to car systems, and the senior trackers would be similar to this technology: the elderly would be given a wristwatch-like device to wear that will has the GPS unit in it. New watch and safety device, not a bad deal.

About 35 elderly people in the city are currently using the device.

If the pilot program is a success in Hongkou, the device, which costs RMB 800-1,000, will be made available across the city, according to a Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau official.

"It's quite useful, especially for children who have jobs. You cannot be expected to keep an eye on your aged parents every minute, and you have to keep telling them not to go too far," said one 38-year-old woman surnamed Zhang, to the reporters.

"And the device provides a better quality of life for the parents by giving them some independence and freedom of movement. You can have peace of mind knowing where they are," she said.

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