As people age, many experience a degradation in their walking related motor ability. Such a loss of this motor skill is linked to mobility disability, physical function decline, morbidity, lower quality of life, and mortality. This mobility disability introduces substantially higher healthcare costs ($1128-$2546 per person per year) for those with walking difficulty than those without. To help better understand this problem with walking abilities among various patient populations, we use off-the-shelf components such as accelerometers and novel signal processing (data analytics) techniques.
Our goal is to develop acceleration gait measures (AGMs) that are more sensitive to age- and disease-related motor skill deficits than traditional gait metrics, and relate to physical function independent of gait speed. The use of AGMs will result in better recognition of the motor skills involved in walking and not just the capacity to walk. This is the first step towards shifting the design of targeted interventions in order decrease the burden of walking difficulty in 1/3 of older adults and the added $11.8 billion in healthcare costs. The magnitude of burden necessitates new approaches for the recognition and treatment of age-related walking difficulty.