Vibrating Shoes Could Help Keep Old People Upright

Jack Albertson dancing and Peter Ostrum watching him in a scene from the film 'Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory', 1971.
Photo: Paramount,Archive Photos/2011 Getty Images

Just about everyone has an older friend or relative who has suffered a bad fall that has led to lingering injuries, reduced mobility, and other frustrating, medically dangerous setbacks. For public-health folks who work with geriatric populations, it’s a constant source of concern given that one in three seniors suffers from a fall every year. New research from a team including researchers at Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston offers a way to potentially reduce that number: vibrating insoles.

To the press release:

Findings published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation show that imperceptible vibratory stimulation applied to the soles of the feet improved balance by reducing postural sway and gait variability in elderly study participants. The vibratory stimulation is delivered by a urethane foam insole with embedded piezoelectric actuators, which generates the mechanical stimulation. … “Although loss of sensation in the feet is a common problem among elderly people that can impair balance and gait and result in falls, there are currently no interventions available that can reverse sensory impairments and prevent these dangerous consequences,” said study lead author Lewis Lipsitz, M.D., Director of the Institute for Aging Research. “We were very excited to discover that small amounts of vibratory noise applied to the soles of the feet may be able to do just that.”

Combine this discovery with that 15-year-old’s device for tracking older people who wander, and soon, the nation’s elderly could be significantly safer.

Vibrating Shoes Could Keep Old People Upright