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Tracking movements

For many, having a GPS tracker tracking your every movements would feel like a loss of independence and a major invasion of privacy. I mean, it could mean that people could find out you were doing something you shouldn’t have, like going through the drive through instead of going to the gym…

We want everyone to live as independently as possible, however sometimes it is in their best interest that if needed, they can be ‘tracked’ down via a GPS or Radio tracker.

A great example of this is if someone has dementia. Inherent memory loss means six out of 10 people with dementia do wander, and New Zealand police say they encourage patients to wear a tracking device.

It’s a sad fact, but police say callouts to look for missing people with dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s, is a regular occurrence. “It’s not uncommon for us to be dealing with up to about two of these cases a day in Auckland,” said Inspector Vaughn Graham, Auckland City Police operations manager. Currently, it is estimated more than 60,000 New Zealanders live with dementia. This number is expected to triple by 2050, meaning the need for effective ways of finding people who wander is only going to increase.

Ten elderly people were successfully found in Auckland alone over the Christmas period using the device.

How it works:

A beacon using GPS, or the more preferred radio frequency, means people who do wander are more easily located. A receiver, which searchers have, picks up a pulse being emitted from the tracking device and on average it takes 60 to 90 minutes to find someone using it.

“It’s giving out a pulse every three or four seconds. The client cannot hear it but with the receiver unit, once the frequency is dialled in, then it will start picking up that pulse,” Delanie Halton, Wander Search Programme manager explained.

The GPS or radio device can be warn in a variety of ways including as a pendant, watch, as an attachment on a belt or on a key ring.

Where to get one:

Tracking devices are issued by Police Search and Rescue (Police SAR) and by New Zealand Land Search & Rescue (LandSAR). There are also organisations such as WanderSearch who distributes a radio frequency tracking device. There are other private companies who also offer tracking devices for those who have dementia.


These devices are unfortunately not cheap. One device costs around $350. There are many organisations who provide this technology on an if-you-need basis or donation basis. This makes it hugely accessible as technology is not useful if the users cannot afford it.

So even though we may not think tracking someone is giving them independence. For people who have dementia, it is a precaution that families can take that can allow them their freedom, but can potentially save their life.

But in reality many of us already are being tracked – the majority of smart phones have ‘Location services’ that use satellites to track where we are and where we are going. As my mum would say – Big brother is watching.

For more information contact any Police SAR coordinator through your nearest police station.

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.

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