Life Lab (Digital Technology Core)

Using technology to observe and learn how older adults age at home

Older woman puts plates into china bookshelf in living room
A research participant wears a digital watch that is part of the ORCATECH technology platform

The Digital Technology Core (DTC) of the Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center maintains the Oregon Life Lab.

What started as one of ORCATECH's first research initiatives has evolved into a "living laboratory" with hundreds of research volunteers. Using a diverse lineup of digital sensors and devices installed in their homes, the Life Lab observes how older adults age over time at home.

The Life Lab is a testing ground for new technologies, some of which will later be part of the ORCATECH technology platform or be used in other studies. These can collect and share data about everyday activities, such as walking, medication taking, and sleeping habits.

Trained scientists evaluate the data about behavioral activity. This process has the potential to paint a clearer and more objective picture of how someone ages at home, or “ages in place”. Having a clearer picture can help older adults plan for their future needs and help them continue living healthy and independent lives.

Director of the DTC

How to enroll

Volunteer for the Life Lab study

  • Be at least 62 years old
  • Live independently or with a partner

What does participating in the Life Lab look like?

  • ORCATECH tech assistants will come to your home and install a network of sensors and smart devices.
  • Except for yearly memory testing conducted by one of our researchers, the only thing you'll have to do is go about your daily routines.
    • The sensors and devices will measure your activities. 
  • Every once in a while, you might be asked to have a new sensor or device installed in your home.

Research collaboration

Partner with our team on a future research project

What are the aims of the Digital Technology Core?

  1. Maintain and make available for research, an OADRC dementia-specific focused Life Laboratory cohort of research volunteers (healthy controls, MCI, and those with AD) who will have deployed in their homes, state-of-the-art sensing and pervasive computing platforms.
  2. Obtain and make available for research, digital biomarker (DB) data on OADRC subjects.
  3. Foster collaborative research involving DB and related technologies.

To use our data in a future research project or publication, please fill out our data request form. 

Fill out the online form.

Improving healthcare

The Life Lab has the potential of improving how clinics and hospitals care for older adults. Using a more objective picture of a patient's well-being, clinicians can spend less time analyzing a patient's self-report and more time creating a customized healthcare plan. 

The Life Lab can detect changes in a person's lifestyle, including: 

  • Walking speed, which could predict a fall
  • Amount of time someone spends outside their home, which can indicate their cognitive, physical and emotional wellbeing
  • Medication taking habits, which can predict various healthcare or memory issues
  • Sleeping patterns, which can indicate various healthcare issues 

Predicting a fall
When Will My Patient Fall? Sensor-Based In-Home Walking Speed Identifies Future Falls in Older Adults
Read the article

Time spent outside the home
Time Out-of-Home and Cognitive, Physical, and Emotional Wellbeing of Older Adults
Read the article

Medication taking habits
Subtle Changes in Medication-taking Are Associated With Incident Mild Cognitive Impairment
Read the article

Driving patterns
Passive Assessment of Routine Driving with Unobtrusive Sensors
Read the article

Computer use
Passively-Measured Routine Home Computer Activity and Application Use Can Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment and Correlate with Important Cognitive Functions in Older Adulthood
Read the article

To learn more about:

  • How the technology platform works
  • What data it captures 
  • The devices within the technology platform

Visit our technology page

Research participant sits on an armchair reading a book in a living room
A Life Lab participant wears a smart watch while a wall sensor measures movement.