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2017 Grants - Audette
Sensor and Simulation-based Fall Injury Mitigation for Senior Citizens
Michel Audette, Ph.D.
Old Dominion University Research Foundation
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
Can a novel wearable technology help prevent fall-related injuries in people with Alzheimer’s disease?
In individuals age 65 and older, falls are a leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and death. Individuals with cognitive impairment have significantly increased rates of falls and are also at higher risk for serious fall-related injuries such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injury. New technology that could help prevent falls and subsequent injuries could significantly improve health, safety and quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Michel Audette, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to design an automated system that can detect falls and prevent injuries in elderly people. Their goal is to design an integrated software system and wearable sensors that can determine an impending fall and reliably trigger the deployment of a personal airbag that protects the body. The researchers will study a group of 80 older individuals (ages 65-90) to develop a model of the average gait (i.e. manner of walking) in the elderly population. This model can then be personalized based on an individual’s musculoskeletal anatomy and gait analysis. A system of wearable sensors will monitor the person’s movements in real-time and detect impending falls. Once this system is optimized for detecting falls, the researchers’ next step is to design the airbag-like injury prevention mechanism that is automatically triggered by the detection software. They plan to design a multi-compartment airbag that will deploy from a wearable one-piece garment.
If successful, this new technology has the potential to significantly reduce the incidence and severity of fall-related injuries and improve the well-being of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.