Since variations in common gait parameters (such as cadence, velocity and stride-length) of elderly people are a reliable indicator of functional and cognitive decline in aging and increased fall risks, such gait parameters have to be monitored continuously to enable preventive interventions as early as possible. With scanning laser rangefinders (SLR) having been shown to be suitable for standardised (frontal) gait assessments, this article introduces an unobtrusive gait monitoring (UGMO) system for lateral gait monitoring in homes for the elderly. The system has been evaluated in comparison to a GAITRite (as reference system) with 86 participants (ranging from 21 to 82 years) passing the 6-min walk test twice. Within the considered 56,351 steps within an overall 7877 walks and approximately 34 km distance travelled, it has been shown that the SLR Hokuyo UST10-LX is more sensitive than the cheaper URG-04LX version in regard to the correct (automatic) detection of lateral steps (98% compared to 77%) and walks (97% compared to 66%). Furthermore, it has been confirmed that the UGMO (with the SLR UST10-LX) can measure gait parameters such as gait velocity and stride length with sufficient sensitivity to determine age- and disease-related functional (and cognitive) decline.
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