Tripping on treadmills? Scientists make seniors slip in lab to see if it can stop future falls

By , on August 29, 2014


CHICAGO—Researchers are tripping seniors on purpose, and it’s not some kind of warped practical joke.

The goal is to prevent falls, which are the leading cause of injury in older adults and cost $30 billion yearly to treat.

Conventional efforts include strengthening exercises. But University of Illinois in Chicago researchers are testing a different approach. They started with a lab-built walkway that causes people to trip, as if stepping on a banana peel. Their research suggests that helped build seniors’ subconscious memory, teaching them how not to fall.

Next they’ll try computerized “tripping” treadmills that might someday be used in doctors’ offices and clinics for fall prevention.

UIC professor Clive Pai (‘Pye’) calls it a potential “vaccine against falls.”