Researchers continue to look for ways to identify and prevent falls, as every year one in three adults age 65 and older experiences a fall, which can lead to debilitating injuries and even death.
The latest technological development uses a smartphone as a tracking device to monitor the user’s walking pattern, according to an article on Medical News Today.
Purdue University researchers’ smartphone tool, called SmartGait, is worn on the waist and is equipped with a downward-facing wide-angled lens that captures gait length (the distance between the tip of the front foot and the tip of the back foot), gait width (the distance between each foot) and walking speed. An app enables the phone to record and calculate these measurements.
People with slower walking speeds and irregular stride patterns are more likely to fall, the Purdue researchers say, so the tool may be a way to identify and correct the problem before a fall occurs. With it, health care professionals could better assess patients and recommend measures that may prevent a fall, such as physical therapy, exercise or vision correction. By wearing the device over time, professionals can also determine the user’s walking confidence.
When tested, SmartGait was able to calculate a person’s step length with 95% accuracy and width length with 90% accuracy, the researchers report.
“We believe this device will be highly beneficial for researchers and clinicians who conduct gait assessments in the field,” says Babak Ziaie, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, in the article on Medical News Today. “Reducing the fall rate has so many benefits — preventing injuries, minimizing pain, maintaining independence and saving lives.”
Purdue researchers will present their findings at the International Society for Posture & Gait Research 2014 World Congress in Canada next month. The team has filed a U.S. patent application for the device through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.
Earlier this month, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the National Institute on Aging announced their plans to conduct a $30 million study devoted to reducing the rates of fall-related injuries among non-institutionalized seniors.
To read the full Medical News Today article, click here.
Written by Emily Study