Fall Detection – Moving Beyond the Pendant

Advice For Seniors

fall detection warning, caution symbol

Featured Image Credit: OpenIcons / Pixabay

Falls are a leading cause of injuries in people over 65, and if you fall into this category, it’s important to take steps to keep yourself safe. In the past, traditional safety pendants have been the most prevalent form of fall detection for older adults. However, the pendant with only a button isn’t a perfect solution for dealing with falls. Luckily, many companies are leveraging digital technology to offer more comfortable and reliable solutions for detecting falls.

What is fall detection and why is it important?

Falling is much more dangerous for seniors than it is for younger people. This is because older adults are at much higher risk of injury. Older adults are more susceptible to osteoporosis, which can make their bones more fragile and likely to break. Falls can also cause serious head injuries or even death in extreme cases.

You’re also much more likely to fall when you get older. There are a few reasons for this. Many seniors experience fatigue as a result of chronic health conditions or medications they take. This can affect motor skills and make walking more difficult. It’s also common for your eyesight to deteriorate as you get older, which makes it harder to avoid potential obstacles. Finally, many seniors have health conditions that affect muscle and neurological function, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, which can make you more likely to fall.

Fall detection and prevention is extremely important for keeping seniors healthy and safe. Fall detection technologies are used to identify when a senior has fallen and send medical assistance to them right away. Fall prevention reduces the chance of a fall happening in the first place.

What are the downsides of the traditional pendant?

Pendants, where you have to manually press a button, have been the most common form of “fall detection” for several decades; although they don’t really detect a fall. These systems are sometimes referred to as personal emergency response systems or PERS devices. These devices are worn around the neck and have a button that seniors can press to alert emergency responders that they are in need of help. Some modern PERS devices can automatically detect when a senior has fallen, so they do not need to press the button.

One of the biggest downsides of using a traditional pendant is that there is a stigma that comes with wearing one. Many seniors don’t want to alert others to the fact that they are scared of falling or at a higher risk of injury. With pendants that have buttons, there’s always the risk that the user won’t be able to press the button. Even automatic detection systems aren’t always accurate, which can leave a senior without help after a dangerous fall or even cause false alarms. Additionally, pendants only track falls after they happen – they don’t provide any prevention technology.

Modern Fall Detection Solutions

There are a few different technologies that have come out in the past decade that provide an alternative to a pendant. These technology options are a great way for seniors to keep themselves safe. Here are some of the most exciting fall detection solutions to hit the market.

Smart Watches: The Apple Watch added a fall detection feature to their product starting with series 4, which was released in 2019. Since then, we’ve seen other brands like Samsung add fall detection features to their line of smart watches. Smart watches have accelerometers and gyroscopes, which makes them an ideal technology to use for fall detection.

In Apple’s case, the watch asks users their age during the setup process, and will automatically turn on the fall detection feature for anyone over the age of 55. When the watch detects a fall, it displays a notification on screen. The user can dismiss the notification if it is a false alarm, but in the event of an actual fall, the watch will automatically call emergency responders and send your location to them.

In addition to these mainstream smart watches, there are also smartwatches available that are designed specifically for seniors but don’t typically have fall detection built-in. An example would be the Freedom Guardian. Although these senior smartwatches are simpler and easier to use than a traditional smartwatch, they currently don’t have fall detection sensors built-in. They do though have features like text messaging as well as biometric tools for tracking blood pressure, heart rate, and sleep cycles.

Smart watches are a very accurate way to track things like movement, speed, and biometrics, plus they’re very discreet. This discreetness makes them a great solution for seniors who want to wear a fall detector, but may be self-conscious about wearing a pendant. Many popular smart watches even come with a variety of options for bands and faces, so you can customize them to suit your style.

Fall Detection Apps: While many smart watches are adding built-in fall detection programs, there are also downloadable apps with advanced features that you can also use for this purpose. These apps are available for smartphones as well as smart watches. Many of these apps do require a membership fee and also leverage voice detection software, so you can get help simply by telling your device that you fell. They also allow you to call a trusted friend or family member for minor falls instead of calling 911.

Whole Room Wall Sensors: Another advanced technology for fall detection is a wall sensor. While these products are still in development, they can provide a good alternative to wearable devices and can be placed in spaces like the bathroom or kitchen where falls are most likely to happen. These sensors can use camera-based senors or radar imaging to monitor for sudden movements that could be indicative of a fall.

These are just a few of the emerging technologies that could change the way we detect falls. In the future, we can expect to see technology grow further to prevent these falls from happening in the first place. For a long time, pendants were the only tool we had for helping with falls, but now we can go further to ensure that seniors get the help they need right away.