Senior Safety – Preventative Physical Therapy?

Promoting Senior Safety

An idea to promote senior safety through fall-prevention measures was born a number of years ago to students in Purdue University.

The students developed an app to measure the gait of a person as they walk in everyday situations. The app has became an interesting device called SmartGait.


What is the SmartGait?

It is a unique device that can be used in a clinical setting as well as by the lay person at home to measure the size of the step a person takes among other things. The device looks like a smartphone and is clipped on a belt around the waist. There are ‘markers’ that are attached to the feet. The device evaluates the fall-risk in seniors as they walk and go about their daily business.

In the words of Shirley Rietdyk, associate professor in Purdue University’s Department of Health and Kinesiology and faculty associate at Purdue’s Center on Aging and the Life Course “We know that people who are more likely to fall, have slower gait speeds and variable stride time, step length and step width.” Using this information, calculations are made that assess the quality and safety of the walk.


What can you do with the information collected by the SmartGait?

  • Become aware of the need for physical therapy in advance of a fall.
  • Prevent fatal and non-fatal injuries in seniors caused by falls, thereby enhancing senior safety.
  • Side-step shortage of time by medical professionals to conduct a fall-risk assessment.
  • Avoid fear-of-falling, thereby maintaining quality of life, ability to continue with activities of daily living, and physical fitness.
  • Assess walking ability over a period of time to see if there is a decline in walking ability.

It is not clear from the product website exactly how popular the device has become and whether it is medically reliable or closer to a gimmick. What is clear is that the product was designed to be relatively cost effective, so that many people could use it.

From Concept to Practice

The concept certainly seems sensible. If awareness can prevent falls, then we should be aware. We should try and protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Senior safety is the step before rehabilitation. It is prevention before the cure.

If there is a way to use rehabilitation methods and physical therapy to promote senior safety then it might be worth looking into it. Technology is progressing in leaps and bounds; let’s harness the advances in technology to promote senior safety and help seniors to maintain independence in activities of daily living as much as possible.


SmartGait for Senior Safety

Image from SmartGait website

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