Artificial intelligence gets a handle on preventing falls



    OTTAWA, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ - A University of Ottawa professor is
studying "smart" grab bars in an effort to help prevent falls and injuries in
the bathroom, thanks to a grant from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
(CMHC).
    Dr. Paulette Guitard is leading one of 18 research projects funded under
CMHC's External Research Program (ERP) in 2008. The goal of this program is to
support the work of housing researchers across Canada to improve the quality
of housing for Canadians. Dr. Guitard is one of three ERP grant recipients in
Ottawa, including Dr. Ehab Zalok from Carleton University and Betty Dion of
Betty Dion Enterprises Ltd. (BDEL).
    Prior research conducted by CMHC indicates a strong need for grab bars to
be installed in homes since one-third of all seniors living independently
report at least one fall each year, and bathrooms are the most common
location.
    With 25 years' experience as an occupational therapist, Dr. Guitard has
seen the benefit of providing these devices to seniors to prevent falls within
the home.
    As occupational therapists, she says, "One of our roles is to help people
be as independent as possible, for as long as possible, in the environment
they want to be in. To do this, we often prescribe assistive devices, but we
have a lot of reports that people don't always use them."
    To encourage the use of grab bars, Dr. Guitard and her team are working
with prototype "smart" grab bars that can sense when someone is approaching or
exiting the bathtub, and provide a cue to remind the person to hold the bar.
That cue could be a light or a sound, or both.
    A previous test pilot involving 10 older adults was very promising,
finding that older adults responded well to both visual and auditory cues. The
pilot also highlighted features that needed to be refined - such as types of
sensors and the delay between the detection of the movement and the activation
of the cue.
    "The bars with visual cues are very stylish," says Dr. Guitard. "If they
don't really look like grab bars, people might be less resistant to using
them."
    While the team's main goal is not to produce a marketable product,
Dr. Guitard hopes that the research will lead manufacturers and occupational
therapists to see the benefits of designing grab bars with visual or auditory
cues. More importantly, it may encourage more seniors to use them and lead to
fewer injuries in the home.

    About CMHC

    CMHC has been Canada's national housing agency for more than 60 years.
CMHC is committed to helping Canadians access a wide choice of quality,
affordable homes, while making vibrant, healthy communities and cities a
reality across the country. Results of a wide range of housing research
sponsored by CMHC may be obtained by calling 1-800-668-2642 or by visiting the
CMHC Web site at www.cmhc.ca




For further information:

For further information: Julie Girard, (613) 748-4684


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