Tags: carpet | fall | alert | senior

'Magic Carpet' Found to Prevent Falls

Wednesday, 05 September 2012 12:46 PM

Scientists have developed what they are calling “magic carpets” – rugs inlaid with plastic optical fibers that can map seniors’ walking patterns and, in real time, trigger an alert when one has tripped or fallen.
The invention could provide a new alternative to the “I’ve-fallen-and-can’t-get-up alert” systems many seniors now use to seek help after falls, which can be life-threatening to infirm, older Americans.
Researchers, led by Dr. Patricia Scully from The University of Manchester's Photon Science Institute, said the carpet could be vital not only for helping people in the immediate aftermath of a fall, but also in identifying subtle changes in people's walking habits which might not be spotted by a family member or carer that indicate a health problem.
"The carpet can gather a wide range of information about a person's condition; from biomechanical to chemical sensing of body fluids, enabling holistic sensing to provide an environment that detects and responds to changes in patient condition,” Scully said. "The carpet can be retrofitted at low cost, to allow living space to adapt as the occupiers' needs evolve – particularly relevant with an aging population and for those with long term disabilities – and incorporated non-intrusively into any living space or furniture surface such as a mattress or wall that a patient interacts with."
Scully’s team, which presented details on the carpet at a scientific conference organized by the Biophysical Sciences Institute this week, said tiny electronics at the edges of the carpet act as sensors and relay signals to a computer. These signals can then be analyzed to show the image of a person’s footprints and identify gradual changes in walking behavior or a sudden fall or trip. They can also show a steady deterioration or change in walking habits.
Scientists believe the technology could be used to fit smart carpets in care homes or hospital wards, as well as seniors’ homes if necessary. The technology could also be developed to detect the presence of chemical spills or fire as an early-warning system.
Up to 40 percent of seniors who live on their own fall each year, often causing serious injuries. Falls account for 50 percent of hospital admissions in people over age 65.
"Falls are a really important problem for our aging society. More than a third of older people fall each year, and in nursing and residential homes it is much more common than that,” said researcher Chris Todd. "Older people will benefit from exercises to improve balance and muscle strength in the legs. So being able to identify changes in people's walking patterns and gait in the natural environment, such as in a corridor in a nursing home, could really help us identity problems earlier on.”

© HealthDay

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Scientists have developed high-tech rugs that can trigger an alert when a senior has tripped or fallen.
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 12:46 PM
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