It may sound cute to some people who hear of pet owners purchasing GPS tracking units for their cat or canine. It may seem practical to learn of bicycle and vehicle owners attaching GPS trackers to their bikes or cars to help prevent or react effectively against theft. But it would appear now that there are some who feel that we may be taking the usage of GPS tracking too far when we place it with the elderly among us when they go out for walks.
Many who have heard of the recent development of GPS tracking devices for the shoes of dementia sufferers have seen it as controversial; perhaps too close to “Big Brother” for comfort. But there are certainly many others who see this development as an ingenious means of granting individuals who suffer with dementia the same independence to which they are accustomed.
How the system operates is fairly straightforward: GPS tracking units are installed in the back of the shoes of an individual with dementia, and professionals and family members are then able to monitor the route of the individual as they go out walking. Changes in route, erratic behavior which could denote confusion in the individual, or irregular pausing can be detected early by those monitoring the GPS units. This makes for a much shorter response time in the case of emergency.
Why place the GPS device in the shoe? Manufacturers say that the decision came about in light of the fact that, for those suffering dementia, unfamiliar objects of accessory are unappealing. Although bracelets, and necklaces, and similar things containing GPS units have been available before now, individuals with dementia have been known to dislike the new accessories and have removed them, rendering the purpose of the device void. Shoes are a safer alternative, according to manufacturers, because they are objects which individuals with dementia are far less likely to discard or lose.
So is this taking GPS tracking too far over the boundaries of privacy? Are we seeing a slight compromise in the respect of human independence? Or is this perhaps a brilliant plan; one that would allow the elderly and mentally afflicted to maintain a sense of independent self? Guidelines and limits are necessary wherever monitoring of human beings is concerned; however, can it be denied that some monitoring can be helpful, not only in giving friends and loved ones peace of mind, but in restoring independence to those who suffer dementia?