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Trials on novel device for detecting falls amongst elderly persons


The population of the aged, globally, is growing inexorably and by 2020, the figure will have risen by 25%. In fact, the number of those in their 80s will have more than doubled. This means changes in family structures: there are more and more elderly persons living alone while the number of carers is falling.

Falls are one of the most common problems amongst the elderly, 30% of them having a fall at least once a year and representing 75% of the total number of victims of falls. 70% of accidental deaths in persons over 75 are caused by the phenomenon. Moreover, it can provoke fear, anxiety or depression in the person, thus reducing their day-to-day activity and promoting less independence which, in turn, increases the difficulty of living and coping alone at home.

To this end, INGEMA and FATRONIK, by means of an interdisciplinary project, are developing a really innovative system in the detection of falls. Ingema (Instituto Gerontológico Matia) has very thorough knowledge in the field of neuropsychology, neuroscience, rehabilitation and social healthcare and has the support of the MATIA Foundation. FATRONIK, for its part, are experts in mechatronics and new technologies of information and communication (NTIC’s) and possesses an ample technological platform.

Unlike other devices currently available on the market, the one being developed by INGEMA and FATRONIK will be able to detect falls by the user both at home and outside. To this end, it has a GPS-based location system incorporated and which pinpoints the location of the user when a fall is registered. When a fall occurs, the system automatically generates an alert which triggers a process of assistance. Additionally, with the aim of not coming up with a non-discriminatory device, it also has an alarm button incorporated which enables the user to annually signal the alarm, even if no fall has occurred (feeling unwell, an attack, etc.) or to signal that, despite a fall, everything is OK and no assistance is needed. Moreover, the apparatus has a very ergonomic design and is user-friendly and easy to carry around.

INGEMA and the MATIA Foundation Falls Group are currently carrying out tests, involving provoking movements and falls, in controlled conditions, of elderly persons. In this way, together with knowledge of the needs and requirements of users, the task is to perfect a highly reliable, flexible and innovative system.

With the results of these trials, in the coming months it is hoped to produce a prototype which will enable users to have a low-cost device shortly. This innovative system aims to increase the independence and quality of life of the elderly, increase their safety and facilitate the labour of the members of their families.

Maider Marcos Ortego | Basque research
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