System to monitor elders proves to be life saving
The lives of several senior citizens living alone have been saved through a government-funded system that monitors their activities 24 hours a day.
The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said in the press release yesterday that the agency has successfully test-run a surveillance measure, the “u-Care system” targeting elders who live alone in order to prevent accidents and save them in case they are either caught in a dangerous situation or become severely ill.
The system is a new concept aimed at monitoring activities of aged people over 65 as well as detecting possible gas leaks and fires by installing three or four sensors in their residences.
It also sends emergency signals to nearby fire stations for a quick response.
From August 2008 to February this year, the system has undergone a trial-run with a budget of 2.85 billion won ($2.18 million). The service was targeted at 5,550 elders living in Seongnam, Gyeonggi and two different counties - Buyeo and Sungchang - in South Chungcheong and North Jeolla, respectively.
During the six-month period, 23 elderly people were saved by the system. Two people avoided a fire because of an alert coming from the sensor. They did not realize soup in a pot was boiling over, causing a fire while they were watching TV in another room.
Officials in charge of the system constantly analyzed the movements of the elders recorded on the sensors.
Officers could either call or visit to see if anything was wrong if there was not much movement.
The ministry said that the system will be applied to over 6,000 additional households in four different regions this year. The capacity of the system will also be improved.
In addition, a new model of the system will be developed to keep tabs on those elders who are well-off but still live alone.
Minister Jeon Jae-Hee and Choi Seong-ryong, the administrator of the National Emergency Management Agency, are scheduled to sign an agreement today for their agencies to jointly manage the system.
According to Korea’s National Statistical Office, over 930,000 Koreans older than 65 lived alone last year.
The number accounts for 18.6 percent of all elderly people over that age.
In particular, about 170,000 elders living alone are found to be in need of special care.
The office predicted that the number could surge up to over 980,000 this year.
By Lee Min-yong [firstname.lastname@example.org]