New device helps quell fear of falling for seniors

One in four Americans ages 65 and older will fall this year.

And it's an experience that leaves seniors fearful and concerned, especially if they live on their own.

A fall can result in a serious, sometimes even fatal injury.

But a new tech-based solution aims to help older Americans summon the help they need while also keeping family members in the loop.

Sandy Craven is 70 years old and had a stroke about three years ago.

She lives alone, and does OK, but since her stroke she says she's fallen more than a dozen times and sometimes has trouble getting up.

"One time I fell and I dragged myself from the utility room into the den where I could get up in the recliner," she said.

Craven fell so often, she looked into medical alert systems. But she didn't like the ones that worked by notifying a call center. Those sometimes call 911 before they can verify if it's a real emergency.

She found one called MyNotifi, which she wears on her wrist like a watch. It detects falls, uses GPS and is connected to her cellphone.

The device sends a text to her loved ones if she falls, and if Craven can't speak, they will know to call 911 immediately.

"If you fall, you just instantly tap your phone," Craven explained. "In just a minute, my daughter's phone will ring."

Craven's daughter Anissa King said that she receives a notification telling her that her mom just fell.

That helps family members who may not live nearby still feel connected.

One of the issues that increases fall risk is that seniors often lose core strength, which contributes to instability.

There's also a decline in physical activity and without daily exercise, balance can suffer.

There are steps family members and caregivers can take to minimize the risk, like keeping floors clutter-free and keeping hallways well-lit.

But there are exercises seniors can do as well, and the MyNotifi app also has suggestions on ways to improve strength and reduce falls.

Dr. John Early is an orthopedic surgeon, and has seen the problems that can result from falls.

He said, "They become more problematic as we get older because we take it for granted that it's going to happen rather than fight it."

Craven said having a device that monitors her and summons help from her daughter makes her feel a lot less helpless.

The cost of the MyNotifi is $299. Since it does not use a call center, there is no monthly monitoring fee. The device uses an algorithm that detects a fall by measuring a person's speed in all directions, then compares that to the direction of the actual fall, which reduces the chances of a "false alarm" notification.
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