Falls are a major health problem for older adults with significant physical and psychological consequences. A first step of successful fall prevention is to identify those at risk of falling. Recent advancement in sensing technology offers the possibility of objective, low-cost and easy-to-implement fall risk assessment. The objective of this systematic review is to assess the current state of sensing technology on providing objective fall risk assessment in older adults.
A systematic review was conducted in accordance to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis statement (PRISMA).
Twenty-two studies out of 855 articles were systematically identified and included in this review. Pertinent methodological features (sensing technique, assessment activities, outcome variables, and fall discrimination/prediction models) were extracted from each article. Four major sensing technologies (inertial sensors, video/depth camera, pressure sensing platform and laser sensing) were reported to provide accurate fall risk diagnostic in older adults. Steady state walking, static/dynamic balance, and functional mobility were used as the assessment activity. A diverse range of diagnostic accuracy across studies (47.9% - 100%) were reported, due to variation in measured kinematic/kinetic parameters and modelling techniques.
A wide range of sensor technologies have been utilized in fall risk assessment in older adults. Overall, these devices have the potential to provide an accurate, inexpensive, and easy-to-implement fall risk assessment. However, the variation in measured parameters, assessment tools, sensor sites, movement tasks, and modelling techniques, precludes a firm conclusion on their ability to predict future falls. Future work is needed to determine a clinical meaningful and easy to interpret fall risk diagnosis utilizing sensing technology. Additionally, the gap between functional evaluation and user experience to technology should be addressed.