Prof Lynne Baillie and Dr Philip Smit are developing an innovative insole device which uses sensors to establish if older people are at risk of falls.
Nearly half of people over 65 have a fall, and around 400,000 people over the age of 75 will have to go to hospital as a result of a fall every year, with huge costs to healthcare services estimated at 2 billion a year in the UK. Many elderly people who have suffered a fall are scared of further injury and stop taking exercise that might help them remain healthy and active.
Gait analysis - the study of human motion - is currently the primary method of assessing the risk of falls by an elderly person. Balance and gait disturbances act as a good indicator of the risk of falls. However, gait analysis can usually only be conducted in research environments, which include 3D motion capture, ultrasound techniques, force and pressure analysis, and metabolic and physical activity monitoring.
The researchers are developing a prototype insole which can be worn on the foot and which can measure the force and movement of a person walking, capturing data within a normal living environment. The data from the sensors will be saved to memory embedded within the insole.
Poor balance and gait are treatable through exercise programmes, so researchers believe the insoles will help people who have already had a fall to readjust their walking patterns. The insoles may also be used by physiotherapists, GPs and other healthcare providers to measure risk of falls and proactively prevent falls in elderly people.
This research has also featured on the Times: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/health/article4385032.ece
Project Leader: Lynne Baillie
Project Researchers: Dr Philip Smit & Prof Dawn Skelton Project Funder: Digital Health Institute