Sept 18-researchers

Researchers develop wireless sensors to monitor senior falls

Of all the health issues facing seniors, falls are among the most serious. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, falls are responsible for about half of the injuries sustained by Canadians over the age of 65, and about one-third of the senior population experiences a fall each year. Although preventing falls is of the utmost importance, the ones that can’t be prevented require immediate response. This can be difficult, but researchers at the University of Utah in the U.S. believe they have developed wireless sensors that can determine when a senior has fallen.

A less intrusive option
While there are monitoring options available, they often require seniors to wear or carry them at all times. Along with being cumbersome, some older adults may feel as though they are placing a limit on their independence. To combat this, a pair of electrical engineers at the university turned to radio frequency sensors. Placed at opposite ends of the room, the two devices monitor disruptions in the frequency and can tell whether a person is standing, sitting or has fallen.

“With this detection system, a person’s location in a room or building can be pinpointed with high accuracy, eliminating the need to wear a device,” said first author Brad Mager. “This technology can also indicate whether a person is standing up or lying down.”

Prevention is key
In addition to having effective monitoring systems, it’s also important for seniors to take steps themselves to prevent falls. There are many lifestyle changes that can significantly lower one’s risk of falling in the first place. One of the best ways for seniors to avoid falls is to make sure they stay physically active. A sedentary lifestyle can greatly increase the chances of falling while regular exercise can improve flexibility, stability and muscle strength, according to the Mayo Clinic. Living in a community setting, including retirement living, with staff nearby can also increase monitoring and support following a fall.

Changes around the home can also play a substantial role. For instance, rearranging walkways so they’re free of obstacles can have a significant impact, as can installing things like grab bars and better lighting to ensure that seniors stay on their feet.

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