'Magic carpet' may curb falls among senior living residents

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'Magic carpet' may curb falls  among senior living residents
'Magic carpet' may curb falls among senior living residents
University of Manchester Researchers recently demonstrated a technology-enhanced "magic carpet" that may detect or prevent falls among nursing home residents.

Optical fibers beneath the carpet can detect and plot the movement of residents. Tiny electronics at the edges of the carpet act as sensors, which relay signals to a computer. These signals then can be analyzed to show the image of the footprint and identify gradual changes in walking behavior, or a sudden incident such as a fall or trip.

They also can show a steady deterioration or change in walking habits, possibly predicting a dramatic episode such as a fall.

Findings were presented at the Photon 12 conference in September. The scientists said they believe the technology could be used to fit smart carpets in nursing facilities and other settings. Physiotherapists also could use the carpet to map changes and improvements in a person's gait.

The interdisciplinary team, from three universities and the Photon Science Institute at The University of Manchester, used a novel tomographic technique similar to hospital scanners.

It maps 2D images by using light propagating under the surface of the smart carpet.

The researchers, led by Patricia Scully, Ph.D., from the University of Manchester's Photon Science Institute, believe this new carpet could be vital not only for helping people in the immediate aftermath of a fall, but also in identifying subtle changes in people's walking habits.

“The carpet can gather a wide range of information about a person's condition; from biomechanical to chemical sensing of body fluids, enabling holistic sensing to provide an environment that detects and responds to changes in patient condition,” Scully said.

She added that the carpet can be retrofitted at low cost, to allow living space to adapt as the occupiers' needs evolve. That's particularly relevant as SNFs accept higher acuity residents, but may not have the money to renovate.