New iOS 15 feature notifies you if you're in risk of falling

New iOS 15 feature notifies you if you're in risk of falling
Many of you reading this article probably know that the Apple Watch has a fall detection feature that has already saved some lives. If the timepiece detects a hard fall, it will tap you on the wrist, sound an alarm, and display an alert. From the screen, you can contact emergency services or dismiss the alarm by tapping on the "I'm OK" option.

Apple's new fall-prevention feature in iOS 15 can save your life

If your watch determines that you haven't moved for about a minute, it will call emergency services and follows that by sending messages to your emergency contacts along with your location. The fall detection feature can be used by those 18 or older and if you're 55 and older fall detection will be turned on by default.

A report in The Wall Street Journal notes that Apple has added a new feature to iOS 15 that is designed not to detect falls like the Apple Watch, but to prevent them from happening in the first place. The Health app available on the iPhone will track certain metrics related to how you walk.

For example, your Walking Asymmetry is measured and this shows the percentage of times that the steps you take with one foot are faster or slower than the steps taken with the other foot. The lower the percentage of times that this occurs, the healthier your walking pattern is. Limping can be a sign of disease, injury, or other health issues.

Your iPhone will track this measurement when the device is carried near your waist (like in a pocket) and you are walking on flat ground. After a few days of collecting data, it will send you a notification telling you whether your percentage is OK, low, or very low.

The Health app can send out a Walking Steadiness Notification which can tell you via a notification when your Walking Steadiness score is low. A low score means that you are at risk of falling over the next year and could use some exercises to improve strength and balancing; Apple's Health app offers videos of five such exercises. The Walking Steadiness metric is calculated using your walking speed, step length double support time, and walking asymmetry.

25% of Americans 65 years of age and older fall every year

As Apple points out, as steadiness goes down, the risk of falling goes up. And this is important because one out of every four Americans 65 and older falls each year resulting in broken hips and brain injuries. The CDC reports that the rate of death to older Americans from falls increased by 30% from 2007 to 2016. If that rate continues, the CDC predicts that by 2030 there will be seven deaths an hour from falls.

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Falling once doubles the odds of a person falling again. And while the videos that Apple provides on the Health app are a good place to start, Physical Therapist Jessica Schwartz, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, was more measured with her comments about these exercises. "Realistically, any movement is better than not," she said. "They are a great place to start while initiating contact with a healthcare professional."

Dr. Schwartz adds that the walking data can help give doctors and therapists the explanation behind a person's unsteady gait and help them to create specifically designed exercises and other solutions. She plans on telling her clients who have an iPhone to update to iOS 15, opt into the Walking Steadiness feature, and share the results with her. She says, "I often come in after there’s been an injury from a fall. I want to see people when they’re not already on the floor."

To set up Walking Steadiness notifications, go to the Health app. Tap on Summary and scroll down until you see Walking Steadiness Notifications. Tap on Set Up and add some information like height, weight, and age. Make sure you turn on notifications. It will take a few days to collect enough information for a notification to be sent out. You can check your progress by selecting the Browse tab in the bottom right corner and select Mobility > Walking Steadiness.

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