Researchers create non-invasive technique for tracking accidental falls at home

February 14, 2012

Scientists at the University of South Carolina adapted technology used to monitor bridge safety into a technique to track accidental falls in the homes of seniors. This approach can put adult children at ease while keeping tabs on the welfare of their elderly parents without intruding on their privacy.

"The beauty of the program is that it does not use cameras or microphones, so it is a lot less intrusive," Juan Caicedo, civil engineer and researcher, said in a news release. "Someone can’t listen to what you are saying or see inside your home. Although sensors are not new, the innovation is in how the different signals are processed."

Caicedo's sensors detect vibrations on the floor of a home and are capable of distinguishing the various forces of impact from a bouncing ball or a falling adult. They can even analyze gait and shuffle patterns to predict an individual's risk of having an accident. This data is relayed to a family's cell phone or computer.

Further studies in retirement homes are underway to refine the performance of these sensors. If successful, they may allow seniors to live more independently wherever they choose.

Every year, about one-third of American adults aged 65 years or older experience an accidental fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the leading cause of injury-related death for this age group.

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