The world’s population is rapidly aging and today’s older adults are leading longer and healthier lives. This demographic shift creates opportunities for tech companies to focus on innovative new technologies to address the challenges of an aging population.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada ‘Seniors’ Falls in Canada’ 2014 report, “falls remain the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors, and between 20% and 30% of seniors fall each year. Results from the data analysis indicate that self-reported injuries due to falls are increasing, specifically by 43% between 2003 and 2009/2010. The majority of falls resulted in broken or fractured bones, and over one third of fall-related hospitalizations among seniors were associated with a hip fracture. Fracture-induced physical limitations augment the need for support on the part of older adults themselves. When hospitalization data are examined, the results show that seniors who are hospitalized for a fall remain in hospital an average of nine days longer than those hospitalized for any cause.” Of the falls that result in hospitalization 50% occur in the home.
The report discusses the many factors that pose as a risk for older adults falls including “chronic and acute health conditions, balance or gait deficits, sensory factors, inadequate nutrition, social isolation, as well as factors related to the built and social environment”.
As the data indicates, falls are an increasing concern for older adults. The devices listed below are an example of how new technology may help address the risks of falling.
Loss of sensation in the feet is a prevalent condition for many older adults that results in impaired balance and gait. A 2014 study entitled A Shoe Insole Delivering Subsensory Vibratory Noise Improves Balance and Gait in Healthy Elderly People concludes that vibratory insoles “can improve measures of balance and gait that are associated with falls”.
WalkJoy helps older adults with Peripheral Neuropathy that, according to the makers of WalkJoy, diminishes the feeling in your feet, breaks the feedback loop and hampers your balance and walking. WalkJoy replaces the lost sensation of your foot striking the ground by providing a signal to healthy nerves around your knee giving the wearer increased mobility and balance.
Responsive Street Furniture “uses digital technology to make streets work better for people with a range of impairments” by providing better lighting, safer pedestrian crossings and seating for older adults.
Isowalk has essentially reinvented the cane. According to Isowalk “The cane was never designed to help the user walk. Its function is to provide additional balance during ambulation to keep the user from falling”.
“Isowalk is a revolutionary, purpose-designed walking assistant designed to transcend the cane’s limitations. In addition to its breakthrough form factor, Isowalk is the first mobility aid to feature embedded motion sensing and monitoring capabilities. This technology, developed by the UCLA Wireless Health Institute, offers unprecedented insights into user health analytics, including condition, recovery progress, fall prediction and more.”
This article is only a small sample of the many solutions available for older adults who are experiencing mobility issues. With a focus on prevention these new technologies have the capacity to improve well-being and quality of life.