Tech Watch: Could Radar Help to Prevent Falls Among the Elderly?

Researchers are working on a unique way of alerting first responders when an elderly person falls.

Radar designed to distinguish a fall from other movement could be ready in a few years, says principle researcher Dr. Moeness Amin, director of Advanced Communications in the College of Engineering at Villanova. A local CBS affiliate in Philadelphia spoke to Dr. Amin about his research.

Dr. Amin is working on a radar system that would work inside an assistant living facility (and eventually, perhaps, a person’s home) that could detect a fall and automatically alert first responders. Dr. Amin recently won a prestigious Humbolt Prize for his groundbreaking signal processing research projects. Those projects include indoor remote monitoring. Unlike other technologies that rely on a person who has fallen being able to press a button to signal for help, Dr. Amin’s technology could sound the alarm as soon as it detects a fall.

The United States is aging at a rapid rate; 8,000 Americans turn 65 every month and a full 20 percent of the U.S. population will be older than 65. Falls become more common as people age and most happen at home, according to the National Institute of Health.

Falls just don’t happen, according to federal researchers, and are usually because of underlying issues such as:

  • Muscle weakness in the legs
  • Problems with gait – how a person walks
  • A rapid drop in blood pressure when you  get up from sitting or lying down
  • Foot problems or wearing unsafe shoes
  • Vision issues, including glaucoma, cataracts or depth perception problems,  can contribute to falling
  • Sensory problems such as having foot dumbness can cause missteps.
  • Finally, general confusion can cause you to lose your balance, especially if you wake up in an unfamiliar place

As people age, they (or a loved one) should elder-proof their home – such as removing small rugs, making sure there aren’t lose cords or other things in a footpath – and making sure that stairs are well-lit and free of any items that can cause a fall.

Author: Retha Hill

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