Hip-protective airbags get another entrant from France. And fall prediction steps forward.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Studio-CAP-PHOTO-HELITE-1002-logo.png” thumb_width=”150″ /][grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/thumbs_Studio-CAP-PHOTO-HELITE-1010-logo.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]CES served as the US debut (the first was at November’s Medica fair in Dusseldorf) for Fontaine-lès-Dijon, France-based Hip’Air. Hip’Air by Helite is a soft belt with hip-positioned airbags that triggers upon fall detection but before ground impact. It is designed to be worn outside the body (unlike conventional pads), is reusable, claims a 90 percent reduction in fall impact, with a battery charge that lasts for over one week. According to their website, it will debut in Europe this spring after testing in nursing homes for €650 (US$800, UK£570). Video on their website above and on CNet.

Our Readers are well acquainted with the toxic statistics around falls and hip fractures. The US CDC found that 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls, usually sideways, they disproportionately affect women, and in the US they amount to about 300,000 per year. Hip’Air quotes their sources as 65,000 per year in France alone. NIH’s 2010 study found a 21 percent mortality rate after one year. Surgery/recuperation cost is around $30,000. Here is a largely avoidable cost.

In that context, it’s encouraging that Fort Washington, Pennsylvania-based ActiveProtective, which we profiled a year ago and received numerous Reader and company founder comments [TTA 10 Jan 17], is testing its belt-worn approach with Eskaton Village, an assisted living residence, in Carmichael near Sacramento California, and nearing a commercial debut. It is also based on sensors (3D) that sense a fall and deploy before impact in what they call ‘fall disambiguation’ and claims a comparable 90 percent impact reduction. It gained $4.7 million in Series A funding in December [TTA 19 Dec 17]. CBS 13 video. While Hip’Air is direct competition, albeit in Europe, more than one provider serves to convince funders and customer markets that the concept is valid.

Fall prediction is also stepping off the sidelines. Our earlier article covered four tech approaches that help to estimate and proactively act against falls [TTA 10 Jan]. Here’s another one from Spain, the FallSkip, which allows a physician or therapist to measure fall risk in under two minutes and in walking under 10 feet. Developed at Spain’s Universitat Politècnica de València, it consists of an Android-based mobile device Velcro-mounted on the back of a soft waistband for the patient which is worn during the walking test. The custom app provides and interprets motion readings to the doctor. New Atlas  YouTube videoHat tip to Toni Bunting 

To this Editor, advances in estimating fall risk are long overdue. Fall cushioning is too, and the less clunky but effective the better. But strength training is a needed adjunct, per the Dutch program. This physical training helps older adults and the disabled prevent falling and fall better, if they must. So what organizations in the US, UK, and EU are advocating this? There’s plenty of room for tech too. Not sexy or cocktail-party-buzzy at Silicon Valley parties, but a direct way to decrease cost and increase older/disabled quality of life.

Fall prevention: the technology–and Dutch–cures

The ‘Holy Grail’ of fall detection is, of course, fall prevention. The CDC statistics for the US are well known: One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults–2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths. In 2014, the total cost of fall injuries was $31 billion. In the UK, AgeUK‘s stats are that falls represent the most frequent and serious type of accident in people aged 65 and over, the main cause of disability and the leading cause of death from injury among those aged 75+. 

The technology ‘cures’ as noted in this NextAvenue/Forbes article centers around predicting if and when a person will fall.

  • The ‘overall’ approach, which is constant monitoring of ADLs through activity sensing and modeling/machine learning to detect early signs of decline or health change. Companies in this area are Care Innovations’ QuietCare (sensor arrays) and CarePredict (wrist worn).
  • Gait detection. Relatively small changes in gait and walking speed are an accurate, fast, and straightforward indicator of fall risk. Ten years of research performed at TigerPlace in Missouri showed that people whose gait slowed by 5 centimeters per second within a week had an 86% probability of falling during the next three weeks. Shortening of stride had a 50 percent probability of fall within three weeks.
  • Read the brain. Research at Albert Einstein School of Medicine in NYC indicates that in otherwise high-functioning older people, high levels of frontal brain activity while walking and talking can predict higher long term fall risk, up to 32 percent.
  • Balance impairment. Tests using VR to simulate falling in healthy subjects and tracking their muscular response also could be used to roadmap a person’s balance impairments and future fall risk–along with training and targeted physical rehabilitation.

The Netherlands has taken this last point and gone ‘low tech’ with physical training courses that teach older adults both not to fall and to fall correctly if they do. Students negotiate obstacle courses and uneven surfaces, then learn to fall properly on thick inflated mats. Many of those attending use walkers or canes, but complete the courses which reduce the fear of falling or getting up–and provide both fun and socialization. The courses have become popular enough that they are government rated with insurance often defraying the cost. New York Times

Themes and trends at Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE 2017

Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE, in San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday 14-15 November, annually attracts the top thinkers and doers in innovation and aging services. It brings together academia, designers, developers, investors, and senior care executives from all over the world to rethink the aging experience in both immediately practical and long-term visionary ways.

Looking at OPTIMIZE’s agenda, there are major themes that are on point for major industry trends.

Reinventing aging with an AI twist

What will aging be like during the next decades of the 21st Century? What must be done to support quality of life, active lives, and more independence? From nursing homes with more home-like environments (Green House Project) to Bill Thomas’ latest project–‘tiny houses’ that support independent living (Minkas)—there are many developments which will affect the perception and reality of aging.

Designers like Yves Béhar of fuseproject are rethinking home design as a continuum that supports all ages and abilities in what they want and need. Beyond physical design, these new homes are powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology that support wellness, engagement, and safety. Advances that are already here include voice-activated devices such as Amazon Alexa, virtual reality (VR), and IoT-enabled remote care (telehealth and telecare).

For attendees at Aging2.0, there will be substantial discussion on AI’s impact and implications, highlighted at Tuesday afternoon’s general session ‘AI-ging Into the Future’ and in Wednesday’s AI/IoT-related breakouts. AI is powering breakthroughs in social robotics and predictive health, the latter using sensor-based ADL and vital signs information for wellness, fall prevention, and dementia care. Some companies part of this conversation are CarePredict, EarlySense, SafelyYou, and Intuition Robotics.

Thriving, not surviving

Thriving in later age, not simply ‘aging in place’ or compensating for the loss of ability, must engage the community, the individual, and providers. There’s new interest in addressing interrelated social factors such as isolation, life purpose, food, healthcare quality, safety, and transportation. Business models and connected living technologies can combine to redesign post-acute care for better recovery, to prevent unnecessary readmissions, and provide more proactive care for chronic diseases as well as support wellness.

In this area, OPTIMIZE has many sessions on cities and localities reorganizing to support older adults in social determinants of health, transportation innovations, and wearables for passive communications between the older person and caregivers/providers. Some organizations and companies contributing to the conversation are grandPad, Village to Village Network, Lyft, and Milken Institute.

Technology and best practices positively affect the bottom line

How can senior housing and communities put innovation into action today? How can developers make it easier for them to adopt innovation? Innovations that ‘activate’ staff and caregivers create a multiplier for a positive effect on care. Successful rollouts create a positive impact on both the operations and financial health of senior living communities.

(more…)

Fall risk in older adults may be higher during warm weather–indoors

A new study contradicts the accepted wisdom of ‘when’ and ‘where’. Fall risk for older adults peaks in the winter, with outdoor falls in the ice and snow. Wrong. A new study presented at the recent Anesthesiology 2017 meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists found that hip fractures peaked during the warmer months at 55 percent.

  • The leading months were May (10.5 percent), September (10.3 percent), and October (9.7 percent)
  • Over 76 percent of those fractures occurred indoors while tripping over an obstacle like throw rugs or falling out of bed
  • Outdoor fractures in warm months were led by trips over obstacles, with the second and third leading causes being struck by or falling from a vehicle (!) or falling on or down stairs

The study sampled 544 patients treated at The Hospital of Central Connecticut for hip fracture from 2013 to 2016, with warm months defined as May 1 through October 31. Study author Jason Guercio, MD, MBA concluded that “Given the results of this study, it appears that efforts to decrease fall risk among the elderly living in cold climates should not be preferentially aimed at preventing outdoor fractures in winter, but should focus on conditions present throughout the year, and most importantly on mitigating indoor risk.” For caregivers, another reason why hazards in walking areas have to be reviewed and minimized.

The information provided does not give any indication as to the patient activity when the accident happened. There was also no correlation with health conditions or time. For instance, other studies have pointed out that a person rising out of bed in the morning has a change of blood pressure (high and low), and in the middle of the night, that person may be half-asleep. 

Where does technology come in? Getting ahead of the curve via gait analytics to alert for changes in gait and difficulty in walking. Noticing those changes could lead to proactive care and prevention. But as of now, those systems are either in test (Xsens MVN BIOMECH, WiGait TTA 4 May, Carnegie-Mellon TTA 23 May 16, Tiger Place MU TTA 29 Aug 15) or in early days in assisted living (CarePredict)–which doesn’t much help older adults at home. ASA release, McKnight’s Senior Living

VR system integrating cognitive, physical training to reduce falls by 50 percent

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/vr-parkinsons-672×372.jpg” thumb_width=”175″ /]A virtual reality (VR) treadmill system has been developed that improves both muscle strength, coordination, and cognitive abilities to prevent falls in patients with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Researcher Jeff Hausdorff at Tel Aviv University-Sourasky Medical Center is integrating traditional therapies that concentrate on developing muscle strength, balance and gait with cognitive factors for fall prevention: motor planning, attention, executive control, and judgment training. In a recent study of 282 patients in matched therapy groups (VR+treadmill versus treadmill alone), those who participated in the VR group fell 50 percent less after six months. The biggest improvement was seen in Parkinson’s patients. Video is below. (Photo and video from Center for the Study of Movement Cognition and Mobility). ApplySci/MIT

CUHTec courses in March–updated (UK)

CUHTec has announced two additional telecare strategy courses for March, adding two at Coventry University in addition to the two previously scheduled at University of NewcastleTopics are Learning Disability Services, Fall Prevention and Digital and Mobile Telecare. These strategy courses are for commissioners, service development managers, trainers and others with responsibility for telecare and AT service planning and delivery.

CUHTec telecare strategy course: Learning Disability Services, HDTI, Coventry University, Thursday, 6 March 2014

CUHTec telecare strategy course: Learning Disability Services. Culture Lab, University of Newcastle, Thursday 20 March 2014

CUHTec telecare strategy course: Moving to digital and mobile telecare. Culture Lab, University of Newcastle, Friday 21 March 2014

CUHTec telecare strategy course: Fall Prevention and Management, HDTI, Coventry University, Tuesday 25 March 2014

To find out more and to book a place, please visit CUHTec’s website. Thanks to reader Prof. Andrew Monk, director of The Centre for Usable Home Technology (CUHTec), for the update.