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Ageing Int. 2011 Jun;36(2):217-231. Epub 2010 Dec 7.

Technology Innovation Enabling Falls Risk Assessment in a Community Setting.

Abstract

Approximately one in three people over the age of 65 will fall each year, resulting in significant financial, physical, and emotional cost on the individual, their family, and society. Currently, falls are managed using on-body sensors and alarm pendants to notify others when a falls event occurs. However these technologies do not prevent a fall from occurring. There is now a growing focus on falls risk assessment and preventative interventions. Falls risk is currently assessed in a clinical setting by expert physiotherapists, geriatricians, or occupational therapists following the occurrence of an injurious fall. As the population ages, this reactive model of care will become increasingly unsatisfactory, and a proactive community-based prevention strategy will be required. Recent advances in technology can support this new model of care by enabling community-based practitioners to perform tests that previously required expensive technology or expert interpretation. Gait and balance impairment is one of the most common risk factors for falls. This paper reviews the current technical and non-technical gait and balance assessments, discusses how low-cost technology can be applied to objectively administer and interpret these tests in the community, and reports on recent research where body-worn sensors have been utilized. It also discusses the barriers to adoption in the community and proposes ethnographic research as a method to investigate solutions to these barriers.

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