The stakes are high for fall prevention technology. Not only do fall prevention systems need to be accurate, affordable, and noninvasive, but the devices must be simpleso that seniors are willing to use them.
A device that meets this criteria could be the answer for retirees who want to age in place, without sacrificing their safety or independence.
Falls Don’t “Just Happen”
People don’t fall simply because they are getting older. There are often a combination of risk factors that can increase an elderly individual’s fall risk. If these factors can be identified then technology can be used for prevention.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falling tops the list in injury-related deaths for individuals over the age of 65 with over 50% of falls among seniors occurring at home. It is imperative that elderly care be made safer especially when it comes to fall prevention and detection in the home.
Signs you may be susceptible to falling
- Poor Balance and difficulty walking indicate fall risk
- Sharp changes in blood pressure when you get up after sitting or lying down
- Dizziness when getting up could be attributed to blood pressure drops, or side-effects of medication
- Slow Reflexes can put you more at risk if you cannot stop yourself from turning a small trip into a serious fall
- Muscle Weakness particularly in the legs can make it more difficult to catch yourself if you begin to fall
- Sensory Problems like numbness in your legs and feet makes you less aware of your environment and more prone to falling
- Foot Discomfort and shoes like high heels can be painful and are more likely to lead to falls
- Vision Complications like cataracts, glaucoma, poor adjustment to light, or depth perception can all raise your risk factors of taking a serious fall
Fall Prevention Technology
Technology is being developed to identify falls, notify family members or emergency personnel when a fall has occurred, and prevent falls in the first place.
Technology cannot substitute for the social connections that you receive from a formal caregiver. However, it does provide a solution for seniors who still value full independence. Technology can calm concerned family members who know that their loved ones can safely remain in their home without requiring full-time care.
Radar technology used for alert systems
Some of the technology that is being tested involves radar technology used in highway speeding guns and weather forecasting to create a system that is a noninvasive form of assisted living. Tech innovators have even looked to military mechanisms for ideas. The urban radar is used to watch and locate people hidden inside buildings from a distance. The radar works using electromagnetic waves that detect motion within a building. The waves would be able to tell users if grandma is resting on the couch, or fell getting out of the shower. Some radar systems have begun to be used in assisted living facilities to test their reliability.
Some of these sensors have been pretty incredible in detecting signs that indicate that an individual is more prone to a fall. The 3D sensors can be used to measure an individual’s stride length and speed then use this data to measure their fall risk. Individuals with inconsistent, slow strides are more likely to fall. With this information, we would be able to recommend physical therapy, balance exercises, and strength training to specific individuals who are at a higher risk of falling.
Technology to help seniors age in place
Making this technology accessible and affordable for seniors and their families could transform an aging senior’s ability to remain in their home.
The ability to age in place is a lifestyle that many of today’s seniors value in retirement. A reverse mortgage is a loan that allows homeowners 62 and older to access the equity in their property without ever having to leave their home. The equity is converted into tax-free* cash that can be used to eliminate your monthly mortgage payment** or otherwise act as funds that can be used for any purpose (medical bills, credit debt, emergency fund) in order to make your retirement more enjoyable. (MORE: What can a reverse mortgage do for me?)
For more technology tips take a look at a recent post that highlights iPhone apps specifically designed for Baby Boomers!
*Please consult with your financial advisor.
**Homeowner is still responsible for taxes, insurance, and property maintenance.