A Better Sense of Sole and Balance in Life
Dr. Stephen D. Perry, Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology & Physical Education, ext. 4215, firstname.lastname@example.org
For the past 15 years, Dr. Stephen Perry has been studying how to keep seniors on their feet. Now his scientific insights could save your life. He's the co-inventor of a new shoe insole that improves balance and helps avoid the most common cause of injury among seniors — falls.
"The Sole Sensor is really a quality of life device," says the Wilfrid Laurier University associate professor. "We're trying to help seniors enjoy life, to give them that little extra edge so that they feel confident about stepping out into the world, rather than staying at home afraid of a fall."
On the soles of our feet, thousands of pressure sensors provide the information that enables us to balance our body weight. As we age, however, we lose sole sensitivity. We develop hard calluses, lose foot nerve function. From a sensory perspective, it's the equivalent of a slow loss of vision. The result is that we can't balance as well and are more prone to falls, the most common reason for hospitalisation among older people. Remarkably, four-in-ten seniors hospitalised for fall-related injuries, such as a hip fracture, die within six months.
The Sole Sensor insole is like eye glasses for the feet, it improves the sole's sensory perception. The patented insole, developed from research supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), extends from the base of the toes to the heel. Its key component is a thin ridge, about twice the height a loonie is thick, which extends around the side and back edges of the insole.
"This ridge acts for walkers like the yellow line on the side of the road does for drivers. When you're balanced you don't feel it. But when you're off-balance you sense the ridge and sub-consciously know you need to re-align your weight," says Dr. Perry, who co-invented the Sole Sensor with Dr. Brian Maki of Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Dr. William McIlroy of the University of Waterloo and Dr. Geoff Fernie of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
In recent clinical trials the Sole Sensor significantly improved seniors' stability. The twenty adults, 65 to 75 years of age who wore Sole Sensors for 12 weeks also had half the falls in this period as did another group of twenty seniors without the insoles.
The Sole Sensor is produced by Ontario-based Hart Mobility (http://www.hartmobility.com/) and will be available in January, 2007.
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