Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The New York Times' Steve Lohr reports that geriatric experts are using "the digital tools of low-cost wireless sensors in carpets, clothing and rooms" to help them learn how to prevent falls among older people. Researchers say the devices provide continuous measurement and greater precision in monitoring an older person’s walking and activity, and that promise to deliver new insights on risk factors and tailored prevention measures.

"For an older person, a fall is often a byproduct of some other health problem: cardiovascular weakness, changes in medication, the beginnings of dementia, gradual muscle degeneration," Lohr writes. "Motion analysis aided by inexpensive sensors and computing, researchers say, may well become a new 'vital sign,' like a blood pressure reading, that can yield all sorts of clues about health."

More than one-third of people ages 65 or older fall each year, with about one fall in 10 resulting in a serious injury. The estimated economic cost of falls ranges widely, up to $75 billion a year in the United States, if fall-related home care and assisted-living costs are added to medical expenses.


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