D2. SmartBathroom Technologies

Principal Investigator: Jon A. Sanford, M.Arch.; and Brian Jones, MSEE
Project Team: Brad Fain, Ph.D.
Project Collaborator: Bobrick Washroom Equipment; Arthritis Foundation

Specific Aims
The needs and abilities of people who are aging with progressive chronic conditions, such as MS, Parkinson’s, ALS and Arthritis fluctuate from day to day. Yet, even when they have supportive AT, such as grab bars, to compensate for functional limitations, those features are fixed, only able to support some abilities, some of the time. The purpose of this project is to develop a SmartBathroom environment capable of assessing an individual’s abilities at any point in time and spontaneously adjusting supportive environmental features to accommodate those abilities.

Specific aims of this project are to:

  1. identify problems in toilet and bathing activities experienced by people with mobility disability who have variable functional abilities due to age-related comorbidities;
  2. perform studies of simulated toilet and shower/bathtub use in a state-of-the-art bathroom laboratory with embedded sensors and automated controls to adjust fixtures and hardware;
  3. develop algorithms capable of predicting support needs based on functional ability and performance data;
  4. develop algorithms for controlling and adjusting fixtures and AT based on predictive results;
  5. evaluate the effectiveness of the SmartBathroom system and
  6. refine the system based on the evaluation.

The outputs of this project will be a set of research tools, including a SmartBathroom and a prototype predictive model with algorithms that can be used to develop new smart technologies. In addition, it is expected that the project will produce and market some “smarter” technologies (e.g., products with built-in reminders). Over the long-term, it is expected algorithms will be validated and new smart technologies that predict and react to user needs will be developed and marketed.

Research Questions
RQ1: What challenges do older adults experience when performing toileting, bathing, and grooming in a bathroom environment?
RQ2. What measures are necessary in and around the bathroom to predict toilet and shower/bathtub task needs by people with lower body disabilities experiencing further age-related decline (e.g. upper or lower body arthritis, grip strength, vision)?
RQ3. What adjustments of bathroom fixtures should be made to assist individuals based on prediction of task performance?