Help! I’m Tripping . . . Do Something Scientific


Tripping grandma will usually get you punished and mad-dogged. But in Chicago a team of researchers is using elderly vounteers to evaluate the effectiveness of slip, trip and fall simulators in hopes of preventing future falls. Logical theory or peculiar sort of torture? You decide.

Geriatric Hook-Up

Geriatric Hook-Up

h/t: Washington Post

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 in 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 (’Pye’), a physical therapy professor leading the research, calls the method a potential “vaccine against falls.”


Standard fall prevention techniques aim to improve physical condition by strengthening certain muscles and improving range of motion. And they may require dozens of sessions to be effective, Pai said. His research is focusing on building subconscious learning, and evidence so far shows it can happen surprisingly fast.


“This is all implicit learning. We don’t give any instruction. They don’t have to be motivated — they’re naturally motivated because they don’t want to be on the floor,” he said.

Do you suppose this procedure could work on the clumsy, middle-aged among us who bump into things unexpectedly, even without the assistance of Johnny Walker? Gosh, I hope so.

by T.M. Burroughs

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