The use of tracking technologies for the analysis of outdoor mobility in the face of dementia: First steps into a project and some illustrative findings from Germany

Frank Oswald*, Hans Werner Wahl, Elke Voss, Oliver Schilling, Tim Freytag, Gail Auslander, Noam Shoval, Jeremia Heinik, Ruth Landau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


As people age in place, cognitive impairment is a major threat to maintaining out-of-home mobility. The SenTra project measures outdoor mobility by taking advantage of tracking technology in an interdisciplinary project involving researchers from geography, social work, gerontology, psychology, and medicine disciplines. The project assesses mobility patterns of urban-dwelling demented and mildly cognitively impaired elders and cognitively intact persons over a period of 3 years in Israel and Germany. The main objectives are to learn more about out-of-home mobility by means of global positioning system/geographical information system technology, to analyze the relationships between cognitive functioning, mobility behavior, and well-being, to examine the ethical implications of the use of advanced tracking technologies in this population, and to assess the potential of tracking technologies in the diagnosis of various types of cognitive impairment. The article presents preliminary findings to illustrate the potential of interdisciplinary data analyses to be performed later in the project. Pilot data were drawn from a combined psychiatric, psycho-social, and tracking data assessment of a group of 19 men and women between 63 and 80 years of age (7 who were healthy, 6 who were mildly cognitive impaired, 6 who were demented) living in Germany. The findings revealed that healthy participants have better health and higher levels of well-being and smaller networks compared to elders who are cognitively impaired. Examples of daily outdoor trips indicate meaningful mobility patterns and the need to combine psycho-social and geographical data to understand the relationships between outdoor mobility, socio-structural dimensions, behavior patterns, and well-being. By achieving its aims, the project will be able to make a substantial contribution to basic, applied, and clinical knowledge gaps in the area of mobility and cognitive impairment research.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)55-73
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Housing for the Elderly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework of German-Israeli Project Cooperation (DIP) is gratefully acknowledged.


  • Aging in place
  • Cognitive impairment
  • GPS
  • Outdoor mobility
  • Well-being


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