Can a smartphone prevent seniors from falling?

There are 11,000 Americans becoming seniors every day. Unfortunately, this ever-increasing population is the age demographic that is most susceptible to potentially life-changing falls. In 2010, as a resuIt of accidental falls, over two million seniors were taken to the emergency room and 20,000 older adults died.

After even a minor loss-of-balance incident, a senior may develop a fear of falling which can impact her mobility, confidence, physical fitness and quality of life.

Now, researchers at Purdue University have developed a potential solution.

The innovation, being commercialized as SmartGait, is designed as a tool to aid health care officials in assessing a person's risk of falling and identifying ways to avoid injury.

The researchers adapted a conventional smartphone with a downward-looking wide-angle lens and a special app that allows the phone to record and calculate gait measurements. The smartphone is worn on the waist, and the system records a person's gait by measuring the distance between colored "foot markers" attached to the tip of each shoe.

Health care professionals could use data from SmartGait to make an assessment and recommend fall-prevention measures such as exercise, physical therapy or vision correction. The device also might be worn over time to gauge a patient's progress in walking confidently.

SmartGait is practical because it can be worn during a person's regular daily activities to assess their walking patterns in their normal environment, not in a laboratory setting. It seems like a great invention. We are hoping, however, that they develop a more stylish belt.

A video about the SmartGait technology can be viewed at