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Platform Aims to Detect Falls of the Elderly Through Wearable Sensors

Researchers from Fraunhofer AICOS and the Porto Nursing School are developing a technological solution that, with the use of wearable sensors, aims to automatically detect falls in the elderly and, consequently, prevent them, revealed the official.

Speaking to Lusa, Joana Silva, a researcher at Fraunhofer AICOS, explained that the project, entitled FRADE, aims to develop a technological system to “monitor movement, detect falls and assess the physical activity of the elderly”.

“It is already known that falls are one of the biggest problems of the elderly population at home and in institutions. Therefore, this technological solution was an opportunity that we identified in this area to be able to reconcile three technologies for three different purposes, but that focus a lot on this problem, “he said.

The system, which will be developed by researchers from the Fraunhofer Portugal Research Association and the Porto Nursing School by the end of the year, includes several components, including wearable sensors, an application for computers, another for ‘tablets’ and an ‘online’ portal.

According to Joana Silva, the wearable sensors, which are still being designed, but may have the shape of a “clip”, will allow “collecting data and monitoring the movement” of the elderly and, based on physical activity, “outline a fall risk estimate “.

“The sensor, which we are still designing, but havethe shape of a clip, for example,  allows us to assess the person’s movement and, through algorithms, identify moments when the person fell. Whenever there is detection of the fall, the sensor communicates with the database and it sends an alert to a family member or caregiver, for example, through a message “, explained the researcher.

At the same time, once the elderly person has “delineated the risk of falling”, the system will make available a set of fall prevention exercises based on the Otago exercise program, a fall prevention program “recognized worldwide” by health professionals.

The data collected by the sensor, namely, on the movement and physical activity of the elderly, can then be consulted by the caregiver and health professionals of the Escola Superior de Enfermagem do Porto, through the portal that will be developed under the project.

Joana Silva told Lusa that the technological solution may have “a lot of potential”, because, in addition to providing “a timely response to falls”, it also contradicts “some high risk profiles”, since one of the purposes of solution is to increase the functional capacities of the elderly through the proposed exercises.

The developed solution will be tested in September with about 25 elderly people from the North of the country, who initially will receive the wearable sensor, as well as the ‘tablet’ where the exercises they have to do for eight weeks are scheduled.

In an initial moment, nurses will explain to users how to use the application and periodically throughout the pilot tests, make visits and remotely monitor the elderly.

With a financing of 75 thousand euros, the FRADE project is one of the three “innovative and promising” health projects at the University of Porto distinguished by the EIT Health InnoStars program.

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