Smartphone app uses biomechanics to help the elderly
Something as simple as walking to the beat of chaotic music can help prevent falls in the elderly.
New research from the University of Nebraska at Omaha demonstrates that elderly gait can be made more stable by listening to music with a variable beat: chaotic music.
By simply walking in-beat with chaotic music, gait stability dramatically improved in the elderly, which, in turn, improves safety and fall prevention.
The research is based on the work of UNO’s world-leading expert on biomechanics, Nicholas Stergiou, Ph.D. Biomechanics, the study of human movement, demonstrates that a lot can be learned about a person from the variability of their movements.
A person with Parkinson’s disease has too much variability. A person with an orthopedic injury has much, much less.
The key to healthy movement is finding and maintaining the right balance of variability in movement.
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“Gait variability is altered in older adults when listening to auditory stimuli with differing temporal structures,” Annals of Biomedical Engineering, Aug. 2013.
Chaotic music lacks periodic beat, which varies from measure to measure. When that variability is tuned to match the pattern of healthy gait, Dr. Stergiou’s research determined that gait stability improved . His work has validated a very simple tool to improve healthy variability in gait: stepping in time to chaotic music. Elderly people improved, healthy variability in their gait when listening to chaotic music.
Those listening to white noise or a metronome had too much or too little variability. The results strongly indicate that elderly gait can be made more variable when listening to chaotic music.
The results can be directly applied to simple health and fitness apps to improve falls of risk in the elderly. The results also suggest more complex applications. The benefit of chaotic music to reduce the risk of falls can be enhanced with simple user feedback: a sensor to help users determine if they are stepping in time with the music.
More advanced applications could forgo the music and provide direct feedback on a step by step basis so as to produce gait that is more variable.