Wearable Android device can assess seniors’ risk of suffering a nasty fall

We’ve previously covered smart technologies, such as a wearable airbag, that are designed to help elderly people in the event that they suffer a fall. A new, more proactive device, however, wants to make sure that those unexpected falls don’t happen in the first place.

Developed by researchers at Spain’s Universitat Politècnica de València, FallSkip is a mobile app that runs on a special Android-based mobile device, which sits on a custom waistband. Doctors can enter the patient’s vitals into the app, and then use its in-built accelerometer and gyroscope to test them for balance and gait patterns, coordination, reaction time, and muscle strength. Once this test is completed, the patients are awarded a score which indicates whether they are a likely candidate to have a fall in the near future. That data can then be used to make informed decisions about their care.

“One out of three older adults falls at least once a year, which is one of the major geriatric syndromes and the second [biggest] cause of accidental or unintentional death,” Xavi Andrade Celdrán, innovation manager for FallSkip, told Digital Trends.

“A fall usually implies a deterioration in the autonomy of elderly people, which reduces their quality of life and that of their social environment. The consequences range from clinical problems, such as fractures or sprains, to the fear of falling syndrome, which involves an increase in the fragility of the older person and the onset of functional disability. According to [one study], falls affect approximately 16.5 percent of elderly people in Spain. The psychosocial and assistance consequences, as well as the fear of falling syndrome, affect between 44.7 percent and 64 percent. In addition, between 9.7 percent and 19 percent of falls result in hospital admission of the elderly person.”

FallSkip was intended to be an objective test to measure a person’s risk of falling, a bit like the way that a Breathalyzer turned subjective guesswork into an accurate test. It is highly repeatable, affordable to carry out, and based on the latest research. “The methodology followed by FallSkip is based on the application of an adapted version of the ‘Time up Go’ Test (TUG), which has been cited in multiple clinical trials as a reliable and cost-effective method for assessing general functional state,” Celdrán continued.

One day, the team hopes that this will be a standard tool in every physician’s clinic to help optimize care for our growing elderly population.