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New technology unveiled to prevent older people from falling

14th June 2017

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

A new smart exoskeleton product called the Active Pelvis Orthosis (APO) has been unveiled and it can predict when the elderly are going to fall and helps to keep them on their feet.

Research from the World Health Organization shows that every year over 37 million people who fall over require some kind of medical attention.

As those who are over 65 are more likely to suffer from a serious injury, this new exoskeleton product, which has been built and developed by a group of biomedical engineers, is aimed at helping older people to keep their balance and avoid such injuries.

 Straight and curved stairlifts help older people tackle stairs and therefore reduce the risk of falling in this area of the home. The Active Pelvis Orthosis exoskeleton device uses an algorithm to detect when falls are going to occur while walking and it then automatically adapts to its wearer to prevent them from falling over.

How the technology works

Speaking in an article on WIRED, Silvestro Micera, the lead author of the research by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, says, "This device is able to understand whether there is a change in locomotion behaviour – in particular at the onset of falling.

"It then generates torque (movement) at the hip of the subject in order to help the subject react to the starting of the falling event."

The designers of the new technology have revealed the device is aimed at helping prevent falls in older people, those with Parkinson's disease and amputees with its main focus being able to help those with mobility problems.

During the development of the new lower body device it was tested on eight people with an average age of 68.9 as well as two amputees. The people involved in the tests were asked to walk on a treadmill, which was custom-built and designed to move in a variety of different directions, with a safety harness attached.

The tests were a success as the new suit would move when a slip was detected and would then reposition the user’s body into a position where they are less likely to fall.

Designers of the device have said that it takes approximately three minutes for the lower-body suit to calibrate to an individual, can learn how a person walks in around five steps with the use of its sensors and can detect a person's fall in just 350 milliseconds.