Smart suite tests how elderly can live at home longer
September 21, 2022
WINNIPEG – A new, home-like space at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg may lead to more Canadians living independently at home for longer. Aptly named, the Smart Suite was built by the University of Manitoba College of Rehabilitation Sciences and officially opened for use earlier this month.
“It’s really state-of-the-art in terms of technology and access to technology,” said Jacquie Ripat, the college’s associate dean of research. “So really trying to explore the use of technology in ways that can keep people living safely at their home, independently and really enhancing their quality of life.”
At first glance, the Smart Suite looks like any other one bedroom, two-bath apartment. A closer look and it’s easy to see it’s much more. There’s smart technology like speakers and cameras, even a mobile robot.
“This facility is like an incubator that will house technology for testing and implementation,” said Amine Choukou. The associate professor is using the space for virtual reality research where patients who live far from Winnipeg can try the space remotely.
The suite is also available clinically for patients at HSC who may need an assessment before they move from the hospital back into their home.
While flat screens, smart lights and voice-activated call buttons are flashy pieces of technology, the first research project happening in the suite is concentrating on a simpler concept, ergonomic kitchen counter heights. Using a person’s elbow height from the floor, five stations in the Smart Suite kitchen move up and down to suit whoever is using them. The idea is to make evidence-based recommendations for appliance and counter heights for people who may want to make renovations to their kitchen based on their ability.
“We are able to adjust the different counter heights and really examine safety and function in ways that haven’t been done before,” said Ripat.
Mimi Locher, dean of the U of M’s faculty of architecture tried out the smart kitchen for herself and found the custom height counters much easier to use. A slightly lower sink made the biggest difference.
“I can imagine washing dishes in the sink and not worrying about the water running down my elbows because its low enough whereas often sinks are so high that my elbows are wet and I’m dripping,” she said.