By Austin Sheeley

It’s estimated that up to 40% of nursing home residents experience a fall each year. For people over 65, falls are the most common cause of hospital visits and can lead to serious medical issues such as broken bones, decreased mobility, or in some cases death.

But scientists from the University of Manchester have invented a new device called the Magic Carpet which not only senses falls when they happen, it can even predict falls. The Magic Carpet uses a series of optical fibers inside the carpet which bend as people walk on them. These signals are relayed to a computer which analyzes the data in real time.

The computer identifies sudden changes such as a fall. It also analyze walking patterns to show slow changes that occur over time, such as a deterioration in stability. That way, medical staff can help the patient improve their stability through physical therapy or the use of a mobility device before a fall occurs.

Though the Magic Carpet is not yet commercially available, the makers hope it will soon be used in hospitals, nursing homes, and even private residences. According to one of its makers, Dr. Patricia Scully, “The carpet can be retrofitted at low cost, to allow living space to adapt as the occupier’s needs evolve – particularly relevant with an aging population and for those with long term disabilities – and incorporated non-intrusively into any living space or furniture surface such as a mattress or wall that a patient interacts with.”