On October 24 and 25 the German Sport University Cologne hosted a symposium about the results of the 3 year iStoppFalls project. This EU-funded project deals with ICT-based fall prevention and risk assessment of older adult that still live independently.

picture of a lady using the Kinect to exercise

The project focussed on the question how ICT can help prevent elder people from falling. To answer that question a variety of technologies have been tested and assessed, for a three steps program: measure how likely older people are to fall, provide them with the tools and training programs to prevent them from falling, measure their progress, and self-control their achievements.

For the measurement and monitoring Microsoft Kinect technology was used, which allows for controller-free full-body motion detection. Participants wore a Senior Mobility Monitor (SMM) around the neck during the day, to record their daily living activity and engage them in exercise. The exergames are playful fall preventive strength exercises and balance games that people can perform in their own living room. Finally an iTV solution was used in iStoppFalls to deliver the tailored training program, to display the progress of the participants during training and to communicate and exchange information with carers and other stakeholders on demand.

The aim of iStoppFalls was to develop a low cost tool for fall prevention and risk assessment in order to support and motivate fall prevention in community-dwelling older adults. A ' living lab' study showed that the system can easily be integrated into their daily activities, thanks to unobtrusive sensing technologies, advanced human computer interaction and automated collection of physiological data.

Clinically efficacy of iStoppFalls was tested in a randomized controlled trial with 160 participants from Europe and Australia. The outcomes were positive. In 4 months iStoppFalls considerably reduced the overall fall risk in the intervention group compared to the control group.  Primary outcome of the clinical trial was a a significant reduction of fall risk (p<0.05). For participants who used iStopFalls for more than 90 minutes a week additional beneficial effects were demonstrated related to their quality of life, cognition and balance.

With these results iStoppFalls contributes to tackle the wider societal challenge of demographic ageing around the world. Because of a vastly ageing population, the costs of health and social care are rising sharply. In the near future these costs will only increase further, unless new methods are invented to prevent and treat age-related problems. Falling is definitely one of the bigger ones; costing our societies for example 2.1 Billion € in Germany, 0.4 Billion € in Spain and about 0.8 Billion € in the Netherlands, amounting on average to 1% of overall health expenditures per year in these countries.

An integrated approach with innovative ICT as demonstrated by iStoppFalls can help to reduce these costs by prevention, and secure a good quality of life and independent living for European citizens.
ICT based System to Predict & Prevent Falls
Project Acronym