Tuesday 24 October 2017

Sensor predicts old people's falls 'weeks before they take place'

Experts from the University of Missouri found even small changes can predict if an elderly person is about to suffer a dangerous fall.
Experts from the University of Missouri found even small changes can predict if an elderly person is about to suffer a dangerous fall.

Sarah Knapton in Boston

Falls could be predicted in older people three weeks before they happen using sensors in the home which monitor gait.

The ground-breaking system devised by US scientists is designed to alert medics to changes so they can intervene before a potentially lethal stumble.

Early tests have shown that it can help people stay in their own homes for years longer.

It is made up of several wall-based movement sensors which measure walking speed and length of stride as older people are moving around their homes.

Experts from the University of Missouri found even small changes can predict if an elderly person is about to suffer a dangerous fall. Risk goes up more than four times if their walking speed slows.

For example, when walking speed decreases by 5.1cm per second, pensioners have an 86pc chance of toppling within three weeks, compared to just a 20pc chance with no change.

They also found a drop in stride length of 7.6cm predicted a 51pc chance of OAPs tripping within three weeks.

The scientists developed the technology to help elderly residents live independently for longer.

Falls are one of the main causes of broken hips and can reveal undiagnosed health problems. Elderly patients are three times as likely to die following a ground-level fall compared to their under-70 counterparts.

Lead researcher Professor Marjorie Skubic, from the University of Missouri, invented the system after her mother-in-law suffered a bad fall and damaged her shoulder.

She recently fitted the system into her parents' home in South Dakota for her mother's 93rd birthday in the hope it will allow them to stay there until their death. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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