This Is What Happens When A Life Alert Breeds With A Baby Monitor

For some people in the Baby Boomer generation, the answer to taking care of their elderly parents was to give them a Life Alert necklace to call for help when they’d fallen and couldn’t get up. The Boomers are also the generation that popularized the use of baby monitors to keep tabs on their out-of-sight tots. So, with that generation going gray gracefully, some are looking to combine these two ideas into one system for adults to keep tabs on their elderly parents.

One such device exists — the Sonamba (which sounds like a pill that will make you samba in your sleep) — drew quite a number of curious eyes at Tuesday night’s pre-CES event in Las Vegas.

The creators of the Sonamba claim that some of the elderly people who would enroll in programs like Life Alert would never wear the necklace with the panic button. And then there are those people who are left unable to press anything because they are unconscious.

So this device adds motion and sound detectors to the mix to determine if there’s a chance that the user has been incapacitated. In case of emergency, not only are authorities alerted, but so are friends, loved ones, maybe even neighbors.

There’s no active video or audio feed being sent out but the Sonamba is hooked up to a GSM network that allows the user and loved ones to send texts. It also can be set up to remind users to take medications and other tasks.

The Sonamba’s $500+ MSRP (plus a monthly service fee) raised some eyebrows at last night’s event, with many assuming the producers of the device are hoping it will eventually be covered by Medicare.

With people living longer — and wanting to do so independently — do you think products like the Sonamba make it easier for adults to care for their elderly parents?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    I read the post… I went to the website… and yet I’m still not sure I understand how this thing works.

    • nbs2 says:

      It looks like it is the love child of a nasty threesome involving a baby monitor, LifeAlert bracelet, and alarm system. I’m guessing you install the wireless detection components, just like an alarm system, only you are looking to detect motion or sound as a positive instead of as a negative making it more baby monitor and less home security. I’m guessing the orange thing is the panic button that you would see on the LA. The system is designed to send automatic alarm notifications to designated third parties as well as emergency responders. I suspect the user web interface is a lot like the interface.

      Summarizing a fair bit of rambling – it’s a security system for your parents, to see if they are breaking out instead of breaking in.

      I am concerned that the woman in the car appears to be operating her vehicle while reading a text alert.

  2. Grogey says:

    They have enough problems with VCR’s let alone DVD players. I think it will take a very long learning curve for allot of people.

  3. says:

    Nice, now the entire family can be notified when grandpa falls asleep in his easy chair.

  4. rpm773 says:

    When I hear baby cryning, I usually let her go about 20 minutes to see if she’ll fall asleep

    When I hear grandpa choking, I usually let him go about 20 minutes to see if he’ll fall asleep

  5. Dollie says:

    Another new technology that I wish existed just a few years ago when my grandparents were both dying.

  6. Rachacha says:

    So based on what is on the website, it is a fancy digital photo frame with microphones and motion detectors that sits in a common area where the elderly hang out in the day. As the elderly tend to be creatures of habit, it guesses that everything is OK because at 6:30am it detected motion, just as it had done every day for the past year and then periodic bursts of motion and sound as grandpa gets up from the recliner while watching the weather channel to go to the bathroom and get himself a snack before going out every Thursday to catch the early bird special at Denny’s.

    If however the device does not see motion by 7:30am it assumes that Grandpa is having some sort of medical emergency and notifies a preset list of people. That is all well and good until Grandpa, who is recently widowed, spends the afternoon at the lady across the way’s house.

    Interesting concept, but the price is way too high and monitoring costs need to be cheaper.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      /agreed. Whe I see “…hoping it will eventually be covered by Medicare…” I read “…hoping they will be able to fleece taxpayers for every dollar they’re worth by dramatically overpricing the device…”

      Ridiculous overpricing in the medical field has gotten to the point where were going to need to start regulating it.

      • Beeker26 says:

        +1. My thoughts exactly. Let’s charge 5x what the damned thing is worth because we know the government will pay for it. It’s right up there with the electric scooters that cost 3x more than my pickup, or that fancy CPAP machine (which does nothing more than blow air thru a tube) that costs $3500.

  7. Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

    I’m a big fan of life alert type alert systems. However…. For every real emergency I go on I also respond to 5-7 accidental activations. I personally don’t care, I’ll go all day long just to check, but at the same time we are not reimbursed for these check ups. There will come a time when if you press the button and it’s not an emergency I.e. No transport occurs, the ambulance companies will charge for the call. This will make the user either afraid to wear the button or hesitant to push the button. Neither is an acceptable outcome.

    But I like what was said above. Will it alert every time grampa falls asleep in the lazy boy and then “learn” that behavior and not alert when he falls into a diabetic coma in the chair?

    • pot_roast says:

      We have the same problem in our district. Fortunately, our police officers will sometimes get there first and determine whether or not it was an accident and we’re off the hook. :)

  8. KathleemB says:

    If this thing works… man, it would take a lot off my mind at night. You try sleeping soundly when you have a ninety year old with bad balance and Alzheimer’s on the other side of the house. (The really fun part ir waking up at 5AM to find her trying to put the kettle on for coffee… when you have a drip coffee maker. Ugh.)

  9. AllanG54 says:

    My 83 year old mom has one of these life alert gadgets. I’m around #5 on the call list. Few years back due to a lightning surge the thing went off and I got called. Only problem is, she’s in Fort Lauderdale and I’m in Long Island. Scared the crap out of me because I couldn’t reach her and what can I do anyhow. It was a false alarm but I think that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

  10. mbz32190 says:

    The life alert gadgets are semi-scamish.
    You can set up your own phone dialer that will do the exact same thing for about $100, without monthly fees. All you do is plug numbers into it, hook it to a phone line, and it will dial when a help button is pressed. You could even program 911 as one of the numbers.

  11. energynotsaved says:

    I signed my Dad up for Life Alert. He managed to flip his recliner and was unable to get up. The system went off and his neighbor was called. Dad was fine, but without that…. I think that system gave him an extra year in his own home. While I’m not too clear how this system will work, I’m a huge fan of the concept!

    Recently, I went through some major surgery. I had to arrange to have someone stay with me during the recovery period. Something like this might have saved me a lot of money and the major frustration of having to deal with a pain in the bottom “roomie”.

  12. tsdguy says:

    Help. I’ve pooped and I can’t get changed.

  13. gman863 says:

    “New” technology? FAIL!

    If grandpa has broadband Internet and a Wi-Fi router, you can purchase Wi-Fi network cameras (D-Link, Trendnet, Linksys, etc.) for about $100 each at Fry’s, Newegg or Amazon. If you have basic wireless setup skills, they can be viewed on a password protected secure link from any PC or 3G/4G cell phone. Most camera mfrs. offer this service free for at least the first year and – even if there is a fee after that – it usually averages less than $5/month.

  14. ilikemoney says:


    • ohiomensch says:

      Or something similar, if you are a Veteran, you can get one free from the VA, (its the kind that you push the button and it dials 911), I used a baby monitor for my bedbound dad, in the weeks leading up to his death, and really wish some company would come out with a senior friendly cell phone.