The Alzheimer House
“Tiny motion sensors are attached to the walls, doorways and even the refrigerator of Elaine Bloomquist's home,” writes the Associated Press. They were installed there to track any deviations in “the seemingly healthy 86-year-old's daily activity,” any small changes in her routine which could be attributed to the onset of Alzheimer's. “It's like spying in the name of science - with her permission,” we read.
And if the sensors detect any wayward behavior, Elaine Bloomquist gets zapped.
Which, of course, isn't exactly true.
This sensor network is a sort of early detection system for the disease. “The theory is that as Alzheimer's begins destroying brain cells, signals to nerves may become inconsistent - like static on a radio - well before memories become irretrievable. One day, signals to walk fire fine. The next, those signals are fuzzy and people hesitate, creating wildly varying activity patterns.”
Currently 112 homes in the Portland, Oregon area have been retrofitted with the devices. A $7 million grant from the National Institute of Health will expand the project to 300.
Firstly, if the experiment proves successful, should we expect to hear about similar tele-monitoring networks operated at the urban scale? CCTV-Alzheimer's®. An entire retirement community comes under the constant, penetrating gaze of their hometown doctors and medical technicians thousands of miles away, diagnosing every move our grandmothers make or incorrectly make, and administering behavior modification electroshock treatment when so diagnosed.
Secondly, might we also expect to hear of a house or a town patterned after the erratic movements of Alzheimer's patients? Rooms, hallways, corners, ceilings, streets, gardens, parks arranged according to fuzzy and hesitating markings of dementia? What would these spaces look like? Perhaps we've heard about this already?
And thirdly, how about houses for, say, the most obsessive of obsessive compulsives, hacked not to monitor their disorder but rather to cure them? Wherein the faucets, for instance, run skin-peeling, scalding water whenever they sense three or more consecutive washes in the span of 15 minutes, wherein the furniture unaligns itself at arbitrary times of the day, and wherein light switches and door knobs and that tempting patch on the wall electroconduct when they come into contact repeatedly with human skin.