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NASA Work With Astronauts Could Help Curtail Falling Among Elderly

Posted Dec 17 2009 7:15am
Researchers at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute are working with astronauts to re-orient them to re-entry into earth and that research could benefit seniors and prevent falls.
Astronauts experiencing weightlessness often suffer from disorientation, motion sickness and a loss of sense of direction because their bodies try to adapt to the conditions of microgravity. Back on Earth, they must readjust to gravity and can experience problems standing up, stabilizing their gaze, walking and turning.

The Sensorimotor Adaptation Team ( I kid you not. That is their name.) is developing pre-flight and in-flight training countermeasures, so that astronauts can adjust more rapidly to weightlessness, to other gravitational environments and upon return to Earth.

An Adaptability Training System (ATS), that they hope will help astronauts overcome these problems more quickly is being developed. A treadmill is mounted on a moveable platform in front of a large projection screen showing images of streets or hallways or a room. As the person walks, the image moves—along with the platform, simulating balance disturbances. Though developed for astronauts, researchers say the system could have enormous benefit for seniors and those with balance issues.

Studies will provide basic knowledge relating to dizziness and balance problems affecting more than 90 million Americans, particularly the elderly. Forty percent of nursing home admissions are due to injuries caused by falls. Falling is the leading cause of accidental death for persons over age 75.

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