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'Magic' Carpet Could Help Shield Elderly From Falls

THURSDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report that it's possible to use plastic optical fibers in carpeting to warn seniors when their walking patterns might put them in danger of falling.

The fibers, placed on a carpet underlay, work by sensing a person's movement through electronics and sending signals to a computer where they can be analyzed.

The researchers, a team from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, say their technology could be used in carpets in nursing homes, hospital wards and private homes.

"Falls are a really important problem for our aging society," researcher Chris Todd said in a news release from the university. "Older people will benefit from exercises to improve balance and muscle strength in the legs. So, being able to identify changes in people's walking patterns and gait in the natural environment, such as in a corridor in a nursing home, could really help us identity problems earlier on."

The findings were presented recently at the Photon 12 optics conference at the University of Durham in the U.K. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more about falls, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: University of Manchester, news release, Sept. 3, 2012

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