We think it’s excellent when the national press pick up on advancements in assistive technology and highlight how people are using it in their everyday lives.
Experts say the breakthrough technology can prevent people who suffer from freezing of gait – a sensation where it feels like your feet are glued to the floor – which is one of the main causes of falls.The shoes, called Path Finder, have a lasers at the front, which project green lines ahead as the person walks. The laser are activated by a sensor in each heel that monitors the user’s walking pattern and pace.
The visual aid has been found to stop freezing of gait and help people to walk more confidently by giving people a path to follow. Developers are hoping the innovative product will give people who with mobility issues greater independence.
The concept is currently being clinically tested in collaboration with a Donders Institute in Holland and the shoes are being tested for effectiveness on patients, their carers and scientific experts.
Walk with Path, the company which is developing the wearable products which can reduce the risks of falls, has also produced an insole for shoes called Path Feel. The insole helps the people with sensory deficits on the bottom of their feet such as the elderly to feel the floor better.The developers say the new products can help people with mobility issues caused by injury, ageing and serious diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.There are about 5 million people in the UK living with mobility related issues, and according to AgeUK, 1 in 3 people aged 65 and over fall each year.
Evidence shows that this risk can be cut by up to 55 per cent through exercise to improve strength and balance.
Falls currently cost the NHS £2.3 billion yearly and with the number of people over the age of 65 in the UK expected to double to 20 million by 2050 and the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease doubling by 2030, falls will have major impact on healthcare costs in future.Parkinson’s disease is a condition where part of the brain is damaged over years. Among the symptoms are a tremor or involuntary shaking, slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles.But the consequences of falling go far beyond the physical trauma from injury. The psychological consequences can be as disabling as the fall itself, reducing confidence to walk, which can in turn decreasing mobility, reduce activity levels and decreasing independence, all of which decrease the person’s quality of life.
Walk with Path has already scooped a number of awards – and has been praised for helping elderly people or those with neurological conditions.
It has won the AXA the AXA PPP Health Tech & You award in the Independent Living category for its Path Finder shoes.
A spokesman for the company said: “We are honoured to have won the AXA PPP Health Tech & You award in the Independent Living category.
“Taking part in the MedTechSouthEast programme with AXA and Design Council has greatly helped us in moving our design for Path Finder forward. The awards night was a great way to celebrate the conclusion of the programme.”
James Freeston, marketing director, AXA PPP healthcare, said: “These Awards celebrate the very best in health technology innovation, showcasing the high calibre of entries spanning many different areas of healthcare, technology and design.
“The core of the initiative is to empower people to take control of their health while providing innovators with a platform to lead the conversation surrounding health technology.
“We hope the initiative will help to put technology into context for consumers and normalise the integration of innovations into everyday lives, whether at work, at home or at leisure.”
Daiga Heisters, Head of UK Parkinson’s Excellence Network, said: “Technology can make a real difference in the everyday lives of people living with Parkinson’s. Using the right devices, such as easy grip cutlery or an app to monitor your symptoms or medication can allow daily activities, which many of us take for granted, to be completed confidently, efficiently and safely.
“Our research shows that preventing falls is one of the biggest unmet needs for people living with the condition, other than finding a cure. Although it’s too early to say if Path Finder is effective in helping prevent falls for people with Parkinson’s, we’re encouraged to see products such as this being developed to help address a real issue for some of the 127,000 people living with this complex brain condition in the UK.”