High-tech shoes made to protect seniors from falls
Falling is the leading cause of injury in people over 65, the CDC says.
If you were watching TV in the 1980s, chances are good that you remember the "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercials for the LifeCall medical alarm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three adults aged 65 or older falls each year, and falling is the leading cause of injuries for seniors. In 2010, the direct medical costs of those falls totaled $30 billion.
There are still several very useful medical alarm systems (similar to LifeCall) that save lives of those who need immediate medical attention, but what if those falls could be prevented in the first place? What if there was a device that could help keep seniors on their feet?
Those questions might find their answer in special motorized footwear. An Israeli company, B-Shoe Technologies, has developed the B-Shoe (short for "Balancing Shoe") system, which uses patented algorithm-based technology to recognize when people wearing its shoes are about to fall and help stabilize them.
How the B-Shoe system works. (Photo: B-Shoe.com)
According to the B-Shoe website, when people lose their balance, their first instinct is to take a step backward and shift their body weight to compensate for the imbalance. This often prevents an unwanted fall. In the elderly, however, those reactions often happen more slowly and inaccurately, which leads to a fall.
The B-shoe's inventors say it's a more convenient, less conspicuous alternative to canes or walkers for the elderly. "Most people refuse to use the age-old cane or walker," explains Ahron Shapira in a YouTube video the company created to describe how the B-Shoe works.
By using specialized pressure sensors that detect loss of balance as well as microprocessors and a motion device, all stuffed inside a normal-looking shoe, the B-Shoe automatically takes a step backward as soon as imbalance is detected, preventing a dangerous and costly fall.
The company tested its first prototype in 2011 and found very promising results that, they say, will not just benefit the elderly, but also impact the lives of people of all ages who suffer from balance problems.
While B-Shoe is currently in its investment stage, the company hopes to be able to start mass production in about two years.
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