FiberOptic-based Carpet Could Help Prevent Fall Accidents

Researchers at the University of Manchester have developed a so-called “magic carpet” that is made with fiber-optic cables.  The carpet can detect when a person has suffered a fall accident, and can also be used to detect conditions that could possibly lead to a fall accident in the future.

The carpet is made of plastic optical fibers.  When a person walks on this carpet, the fibers relay this information to a computer. The computer uses this data to map the persons walking patterns.  There are tiny sensors that are installed at the edges of the carpet, and these transmit signals to a main computer, which can then analyze minute changes in a persons walking behavior that can indicate a potential fall risk.  The data can also be used to study if there has been any steady or continued deterioration in the persons walking behavior that could possibly increase the risk of a fall.

A carpet like this would be very useful in environments that are used by elderly persons.  Senior citizens are at a much higher risk of suffering fall accidents, not just at home, but in commercial spaces like hotels, restaurants, commercial buildings and nursing homes.  Many seniors are highly mobile, and very independent.  An increasing number of them are now preparing to live independently at home,instead of in nursing homes.  According to the researchers, this technology can possibly be used in nursing homes,hospitals, as well as homes, to detect any changes in the persons walking patterns.

Fall accidents are a major geriatric health concern,because of the health consequences that a single fall accident can have on a seniors health.  A fall accident can lead to fractures that may heal fairly quickly. However, in a senior, these fractures may take a much longer time to heal, and may adversely affect the person’s quality of life.  Age-related factors increase a person’s risk of falling as he gets older.