"I've fallen, and I can't get up," Mrs. Fletcher, an elderly woman alone in a blue smock, shouts from her bathroom floor. By some fortune, Fletcher is wearing a Life Call remote control device. Rattled but systematic, she presses a button that activates her speakerphone. A dispatcher responds, and she is able to yell to the phone in the room adjacent. She cannot go to it because, you’ll remember, Mrs. Fletcher cannot get up.
"We're sending help immediately, Mrs. Fletcher," says the collected voice on the other end of the line. The owner of said voice, Gerald, is concerned but in control. He is in the sweet spot of his career; old enough to be authoritative and expert, but not so old as to be stereotyped as waning in competence. Despite being a phone dispatcher, Gerald wears a white uniform with a tie and an emblem on the shoulder, like a pilot. He wanted to be a pilot once, and that didn't happen. Sometimes things don’t happen the way you hoped they might.
You may remember this scene from a famous 1987 commercial for the Life Call remote control emergency device. It was both a subject of parody and a point of widespread awareness for this type of safety-monitoring product.
In the next three decades, the number of Americans over 65-years-old will double. That's good news if you are the proprietor of any retirement homes, retirement villages, or retirement centers. But as many Americans opt to "age in place"—a popular term that might conjure the stagnation of a potted plant but is used in rebellion to the nursing-home-exile trope, describing continued independent living in one's own home—there will be an increasing need for affordable, large-scale systems to monitor for emergencies.
The most common injury-related reason that elderly people are admitted to the hospital is that they fell over. It has been reported that almost one in one thousand of those falls results in death. Wearable devices and home-monitoring video cameras have become widely popular, but they have drawbacks in that they can be invasive or annoying. So an expert in radar imaging is on the case.