CHICAGO (AP) — Researchers are tripping seniors on purpose, and it’s not some kind of warped practical joke.
The experiment is among techniques being studied to prevent falls, the leading cause of injury in older adults. Falls in the elderly cost $30 billion yearly to treat and can send them spiraling into poor health and disability.
Conventional efforts to prevent falls include exercises to boost strength and balance, but researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are trying a completely different approach. It’s based on promising, preliminary results with a lab-built walkway that causes people to unexpectedly trip, as if stepping on a banana peel.
Now the same scientists are testing a similar approach with computerized treadmills. If it works, they envision specially designed treadmills in doctors’ offices, clinics and physical therapy centers for training people how to avoid falling.
Clive Pai, a physical therapy professor leading the research, calls the method a potential “vaccine against falls.”