Neil Charness and Wally Boot Receive Grants to Improve the Health and Safety of Seniors

Charness Boot graphic

Professors Wally Boot and Neil Charness have jointly received grants from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) to advance the health and safety of seniors. The research funded by these grants investigates ways to use technology to improve the safety and quality of life for seniors.

The research supported by the NIH grant aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of a portable and real-time survey system capable of collecting different kinds of information that can be diagnostic about one's health. This information will be monitored through a wrist-based device in a watch form, computer tablets, and other wireless devices. These devices will help seniors keep track of several sources of health-related information such as, a person's activity level, sleep patterns, blood pressure, stress, and weight. This study is being conducted in Tallahassee and in the Washington, DC area.

During the study, 30 healthy seniors and 60 seniors with congestive heart failure (CHF) will be monitored over six months, during which a number of episodes of acute CHF exacerbation are expected to occur; the system will learn to recognize and alert upon such episodes. All study participants will be monitored by a visiting nurse once a month and will remain under the care of their physician. The specific aims of the project are to establish that: 1) the system can and will be used by an elderly population for an extended (six-month) period of time, 2) the watch device is effective for collecting longitudinal sleep and activity data, and 3) the system is effective in providing useful survey data to monitoring nurses while reducing the burden of care.

Research supported by the FDOT grant is aimed at addressing the 12% of fatal traffic crashes that involve the death of a pedestrian. While pedestrian fatalities are currently trending downward, the number of fatalities is still high (4,092 in 2009), with the number of non-fatal crashes much higher (59,000). In the United States, Florida is the state with the second highest number of pedestrian fatalities. Unfortunately, senior pedestrians are at greater risk compared to their younger counterparts. Pedestrians aged 65 years of age or older account for 19% of all pedestrian fatalities, a fatality rate higher than other age groups.

The research supported by FDOT will adopt a multi-pronged approach to understand factors that contribute to these crashes, and ways to improve the safety of individuals of all ages. A field study will use survey methods to understand the decision process involved in crosswalk use from the perspective of the pedestrian. A lab-based eye tracking study will examine the benefit of standard and special emphasis crosswalk markings in terms of directing attention to pedestrians from the perspective of the driver. Finally, a study using FSU's driving simulator study will examine whether the presence or type of crosswalk impacts drivers' behavior toward pedestrians.