Sensor System May Reduce Falls Among Elderly, Save Lives

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Left to right: Professor Karen Roberto, Associate Professor Thurman Lockhart and Professor Dong Ha are at the helm of the research. [Photo: Virginia Tech]
You probably wouldn't be surprised to hear that falls are pretty common among those over 65 years old. But what's more worrying is that a large proportion of these falls lead to severe injuries, which sometimes result in death. In 2009, out of 2.2 million elderly people in the US who had a fall, 581,000 ended up hospitalized, according to figures from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Yikes

Fortunately, researchers from Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia have created a prototype device aimed toward preventing nasty falls. The team created a portable monitoring system with sensors that are able to measure when a potential fall risk is around (e.g. an object, a bump in the sidewalk, etc...). Worn on the ankle and no bigger than an iPod Mini (remember those?), the sensors pick up a person's speed, mobility, and gait, so what is considered a hazard is adjusted accordingly.

The early prototype will help the researchers improve the device, particularly its Remote Observation Operating Platform monitor system, otherwise known as ROOP-Alert. ROOP-Alert monitors the device and looks at more aspects of the wearer's health, such as posture and further body sensoring. When an hazard is detected, ROOP-Alert will also warn nurses or other caretakers to the danger, so they can assist the wearer, therefore helping stop falls.

This new monitoring sensor system could be a big deal to those who need it most, especially in situations where it could be, quite literally, the difference between life, horrific injuries or death.

[Virginia Tech via Physorg]

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