Project 9

Older adults who fall: Can a wireless acoustic feedback system prevent falls?

State-of-the-Art: Current rehabilitation technology and techniques are effective in improving gait and balance deficits in older adults who fall. However most of these approaches are performed in a lab or hospital, under the supervision of a specialist. Thanks to the highly dynamic technical development, sensor techniques for quantifying gait and balance can now be connected wirelessly with simple information tools (e.g. visual, audible, or vibrotactile methods), to provide highly mobile and easy-to-use feedback systems in real-time for everyday use.

Approach: The overall goal of this project is to test adaptability, feasibility, acceptability and efficacy of a wireless acoustic feedback system that aims at influencing gait and balance deficits of older fallers in daily life. As a first step, a wireless acoustic feedback system will be designed with already available sensor and information components. This will be done in close collaboration with B1, who found positive effects on balance in a (supervised) 6-week intervention trial with Parkinsonian patient using a similar system. The second step will be the extraction of quantitative parameters driving specific gait and balance deficits out of an already existing exhaustive database of 400 older patients with a large variety of neurological diseases. These patients have been investigated with the in-house developed wearable sensor system (RehaGait system, HMD) in collaboration with B1. As a third step, acoustic feedback strategies associated with gait and balance parameters of interest will be developed and tested in healthy older adults, before, as the fourth step, older fallers with defined gait and balance deficits will be invited to take part in a controlled 6-week intervention study with a multiple measures design, including the assessment of long-term predictors of future falls and further ICF-relevant parameters.