Innovation is helping seniors live longer and healthier at home, according to researchers at the University of Washington.

They are using small, inexpensive sensors to track simple things like temperature in order to help older adults make serious improvements.

They cost about $50 a piece, and for the pilot study, researchers placed them in the homes of 15 older adults to track simple things like room temperature, humidity levels, amount of light, and motion.

“Especially with motion tracking you're able to get the general pattern of your daily life: seeing how long you sleep, how often you wake up, get up, how active you are. If you're seeing a decrease every month in your activity level, it may be something you want to talk to your provider about,” UW researcher and PhD student Yong Choi said.

Achy, tired, and “Oh my goodness, do I have to do this again?” is how Meredith Bickley described waking up each morning a few months ago.

These days, after participating in a study with the UW School of Nursing and working with a doctor to diagnose her condition, she’s sleeping much better.

“I’m never going to be bubbling, but I didn’t snap anything or anybody’s head off, so that’s a definitely improvement,” Bickley said.

Choi says Bickley’s sensor detected low humidity levels in her apartment, which can contribute to sleep apnea. She worked with a sleep doctor, who prescribed a CPAP mask.

“Last night I slept seven hours and 43 minutes and I was tickled pink,” Bickley said, explaining better sleep makes her believe she’ll be able to live in her own home for longer. “Oh, it's extremely important. Who wants to hang around if you've got to have everything done for you? No, no, that wouldn't be for me.”

Researchers hope with more success in the next phase of the study, Medicare and private insurance may cover the sensors in the future.

The sensors used in the study are available online.