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According to the CDC, one in three adults over the age of 65 fall every year, but only half of them discuss this problem with healthcare providers. Injuries sustained from falls are dangerous enough, but complications resulting from long periods of inattention injure both the spirit and body. The CDC adds, “Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increases their actual risk of falling.” This problem is solved with the advent of a system that constantly monitors for falls and ensures assistance will arrive promptly in the event of an accident.
Current approaches to fall detection systems, such as digital CCTV scene analysis, accelerometer embedded accessories, and user activated alert pendants, suffer from high barriers to adoption. Bulky devices, invasive camera technology, and systems that require users to initiate a call for help are too inconvenient and ineffective to spur widespread use.
To better address the needs of elderly individuals and their families, we must reexamine our approach to slip-and-fall detection. Repurposing ultrasonic sensors and integrating them into existing system architectures allows us to develop a passive, non-invasive fall detection system at a relatively low cost. Much like modern security systems, these sensors can be monitored continuously. When a fall is detected, alerts will be sent to neighbors, family, facility staff, or emergency services. Safeguards can be established to prevent false-positive alerts and to protect privacy and prevent unnecessary emergency assistance calls.
As industrialized societies experience continued growth in the number and proportion of elderly individuals, new challenges arise. Finding new purposes for existing technologies enables these societies to respond to emerging challenges. In the future, it will be possible to aggregate data from slip-and-fall accidents, such as when and where they typically occur, to improve design and material choice for elderly individuals' needs. Due to advances in medical science and other changes, people are living longer lives. By improving the lives of elderly individuals, we can ensure that our “golden years” are characterized by comfort and security.