Now more than ever, families are feeling worried about their elderly loved ones. Their parents or grandparents have to socially distance themselves, leading to worries about everything from a contraction of an illness to a fall in the middle of the night. WalkWise, a local startup company founded by Peter Chamberlain in 2016, has a solution to ease some worries for family members.
WalkWise creates smart attachments for walkers which can track fitness, monitor health, and provide family members and caretakers with safety alerts if something should go wrong. There’s a node that’s plugged into the wall, connects to a WiFi or cellular network, and communicates 24/7 with the device on the walker. Families and caregivers can download the app to see activity data and configure safety alerts. If the walker hasn’t moved for a certain amount of time or if the walker doesn’t move by a certain time in the morning, any family or caregiver with the app will get an alert or text message. There’s also an alert if the walker tips over.
“It’s all about knowing what’s going on,” said Chamberlain. “Especially when a lot of home caregiving services have stopped visitations altogether.”
Chamberlain was inspired to create the product after seeing some of the struggles faced by his own grandparents as they aged. At one point in his life, Chamberlain had three grandparents using walkers. One was in a senior living community dealing with the onset of dementia, and two were living at home independently. One fell while walking to the bathroom at night and had to crawl to a phone for help. Another fell and wasn’t able to crawl, and was only helped when seen by the gardener. Both had safety pendants, but weren’t wearing them at the time.
“These things happened without a pandemic,” said Chamberlain. “But now they are living without the safety net of visitors and care providers.”
Although his product is currently very useful for those trying to monitor their loved ones during a time when they’re unable to visit, it’s not as if his company hasn’t been affected by the pandemic itself.
Most senior living communities aren’t allowing outside parties into their buildings to install products like WalkWise.
“We changed our approach and started a pilot at a South Carolina community where everything was self-installed. We showed that anyone can get started with WalkWise despite the quarantine” said Chamberlain.
Chamberlain also says that if people are currently in need of their technology but don’t have the financial resources, they will work with them to find a solution.