New Monitoring System That Gives Early Warning If Elderly Is At Risk of Falling

Wristband that elderly wore so that their walking pattern can be tracked.
The walking patterns of the elderly were tracked by RLTS via the wristbands they wore. Credit: University of South Florida.


Technology used at BMW’s assembly line is transferred to a new monitoring system that can accurately indicate if an elderly is at increased risk of falling.

Declining cognitive function increases the risk of fall. The possible causes are medication, lack of sleep or dementia. This is a disturbing safety problem for elderly who live alone at home, or at assisted living facilities where it is not possible to have continuous individual care.

Dr William Kearns and the research team at South Florida University have developed a novel method that accurately indicates if an elderly is at increased risk of falling. Their method is based on the finding that cognitive impairment is related to the fractal dimension value (a measurement of wondering or directional deviation) in the walking pattern.

For their research, the movements of 53 residents at the Sunrise Village Assisted Living Facility in Tampa were monitored for a year. Via the wrist bands they worn, the walking patterns of the elderly were tracked by Real Time Location System (RTLS). Automated computerized reports on each resident’s fractal dimension value were generated for study.

Daily examination of each reports allowed administrators to detect increasing signs of wandering of an elderly and find out the cause — such as change of diet, medication or sleeping habits. By taking action and making adjustments in time, the elderly’s navigation could be improved and ultimately prevent an impending fall.

RTLS was created by Ubisense and is currently used by BMW’s assembly line to help the operation runs more efficiently.

RTLS is much more accurate than GPS and updates 100 times per second. It pinpoints one’s location, indoors or outdoors, within six inches. GPS is limited to the outdoors and has a one-meter resolution. RTLS is most effective for open floorplans because obstacles in the walking path may affect accuracy.

Dr Kearns is the president of the International Society for Gerontechnology and associate professor at the University of South Florida College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

Dr Kearns believes the wristband technology will eventually be used in at-home care. He presented his findings at the International Society for Gerontechnology 11th World Conference on May 7, 2018.



“New movement monitoring system helping prevent falls in the elderly.” University of South Florida. Medical Express, May 7, 2018.


Hip protecting airbags

Hip’Air - a hip protector by Helite
Hip’Air – a hip protector by Helite

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on 7 January, French company Helite launched Hip’Air, a safety product for the elderly.

Hip’Air is designed to prevent hip fractures. It is a wearable belt with a sensor and two airbags. Within 80 milliseconds of detecting the wearer is about to fall, the airbags on either side of the hip will inflate. Therefore, it has the potential of protecting the wearer of pain and danger associated with hip fracture.

The manufacturer claims that the air bags could absorbs 90 per cent of the impact of a fall, and it is nine times better at absorbing impact force than traditional protection pads.

The belt weighs around 2lbs and attaches with a simple click. The arrows on the belt show you the correct way to wear the belt.

The hip protector when deployed

Airbags prevent hip fracture when deployed (diagram from Helite’s website)

The device will be available for orders in March across Europe and in the US in September. It will sell in the US for around $800. Please note that each time the airbags are deployed, a gas canister will need to be replaced for $50.

Most people I have talked to thought the price is prohibitive. However, when you consider the human cost and financial cost of hip fracture, the use of the device may be justified for those elderly who are very vulnerable to falls.

Would I get one for myself? May be – if I participate in dangerous activities or sport. But I don’t think it is something I would wear to go about my daily life. It is probably too bulky to wear under clothes.


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