How Automatic Fall Detection For Seniors Works

How Automatic Fall Detection For Seniors Works

How Automatic Fall Detection Works
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Did you know that one in four Canadians aged 65 and older experiences a fall each year? 

It’s true. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, senior citizens in North America are seen in the emergency room every 11 seconds on average. It’s clear that seniors are at a higher risk of experiencing a detrimental fall that could cost them their long-term health.  

The thing is, you can’t plan ahead for falls—but you can plan for what you would do in the event of one. Having a fall detection device enables a prompt response to your emergency, which helps you to enjoy additional peace of mind while you’re out and about. Should you need help, a fall detection device will ensure you are attended to as quickly as possible.

Join us as we explore in more detail how fall detection works, how medical alert systems can benefit seniors, and what some of the options are below.

What is Fall Detection?

Emergencies can happen suddenly and without warning. That is why fall detection technology is an invaluable, life-saving feature in medical alert systems. Automatic fall detection is a type of technology that has emerged in recent years to allow seniors, or those who may require physical assistance, to receive swift assistance in the event of an accident. Should a person fall in an isolated area, outside, or out of reach of a phone, a fall detection device would detect the fall and alert those on an emergency response list automatically.


Typically, the built-in sensor on these devices is an accelerometer or gyroscope that detects sudden changes in height and body position. When this occurs, most of these devices will send an alert to everyone included on an emergency response list, notifying them of their loved one’s fall. Fall detection systems are often worn around the wrist, neck, or waist.

How Does Fall Detection Work?

Fall detection uses sensors to evaluate sudden, drastic changes in position. Prior to this technology, those who experienced a fall had to press a button on their device for assistance; today, the sensors incorporated into fall detection products do all the work. This is significant in case a person is incapable of pressing a button (ie they may be unconscious).

There are three main factors that fall detection technology uses for the successful identification of and response to a spill: 

  • Sensor Technology. The most common technology used in fall detection includes accelerometers and gyroscopes. Alternatively, some products use low-power radio waves to gauge sudden changes in the user’s movements or environment.
  • Fall Detection. Once the fall detection sensors have picked up on drastic changes in the user’s environment, algorithms translate the available information and determine whether these changes are the result of a fall. Should the algorithms classify an unusual movement as a fall, they will trigger the device to alert those on the emergency response list.
  • Urgent response: In addition to sensors, fall detection devices are usually equipped with two-way speakers, where the emergency response team can communicate with the person who has summoned help. This is a helpful feature to avoid unnecessary action, should a device malfunction.

For the most part, fall detection devices are made with high-tech sensors that are accurate and precise. However, because such technology requires significant environmental changes to classify a movement as a “fall,” there may be instances where the device won’t pick up on falls from a sofa or bed. In light of this, many devices still include a help button that a person can press manually to trigger a request for assistance. On the flip side, some drastic movements or environmental changes may trigger false alarms. The seniors can communicate that they are OK if the device has audio functionality.

What Happens When A Fall Occurs?

When a fall detection device is triggered, it will transmit an emergency signal to a response team and/or designated family and friends. Each device handles emergencies somewhat differently; for instance, there are some fall detection technologies that use advanced location tracking, reminders, alerts, and text-to-speech messaging. Other devices are more basic and streamlined and are produced with more basic features.

How Does Fall Detection Benefit Seniors? 

Senior citizens, whether they are active or sedentary, can benefit greatly from the security and added peace of mind that fall detection devices provide. It is especially worthwhile technology for seniors who live alone, enabling independence and privacy while providing a safety net in the event of an emergency. 

Should an accident take place, fall detection becomes that much more beneficial. Falls can happen anyplace and anytime, and can render a person immobile and unable to reach a phone. Older adults can suffer different types of falls from activities as simple as going to get the mail or taking a shower, and a medical alert device can mean the difference between hours in pain and swift assistance. These devices ensure that seniors have direct access to medical assistance should they require it.

Canadian Companies that Offer Fall Detection Devices

“Do medical alert systems include fall detection?” is one of eight questions we encourage seniors and their caregivers to consider before investing in a medical alert systemWhen it comes to selecting the best fall detection device for their needs, senior citizens have many options. There are several Canadian medical alert companies that offer advanced fall detection technology. 

TELUS LivingWell Companion

A WirelessWizard editor’s choice, TELUS LivingWell Companion is a personal emergency response service that features optional fall detection and access to 24/7 emergency support.

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The device is also equipped with an emergency help button that people are encouraged to use in the event of an emergency in combination with the fall feature. 

Philips Lifeline

Philips Lifeline produces AutoAlert advanced fall technology to encourage senior citizens to live life fully and independently. The device automatically calls for help in the event of a fall, and assistance is available around the clock. The AutoAlert fall detection pendant or device is compact, waterproof, and user-friendly, making it a convenient option for those on the go.

Life Assure 

Life Assure specializes in medical alert devices with the goal of allowing seniors to continue living in their own homes. The company offers free medical alert equipment, free shipping, and services that are free of long-term contracts. Its product strives to provide seniors with added peace of mind, knowing that they can be instantly connected with family, friends, or paramedics in the event of an emergency. Those who use Life Assure medical alert units pay a monthly subscription for the service, with no hidden fees or extra costs. The brand is also proudly Canadian and offers special deals to Canadian residents.


Caretrak works similarly to other fall detection devices. The device is a wearable pendant that promotes a one-click connection to immediate assistance in the event of a fall or accident. Caretrak’s medical alarm service features a button as well as automatic fall detection that may be turned on or off. It is also wireless, GPS-enabled, water-resistant (for shower use), and has a two-way speakerphone.


Lastly, SecurMEDIC offers free medical alert equipment to Canadian residents for a limited time. Their system uses two-way monitoring to protect and communicate with seniors during a home health emergency. Emergency monitoring centers are active 24/7, and the device features a help button as well as optional fall detection technology. Subscriptions come with a lifetime guarantee, replaceable medical-grade silicone bracelet, pendant, and a backup battery. This device and service require a landline phone.

Conclusion & Recommendations

In summary, fall detection devices can be life-changing for seniors, enabling healthy older citizens to continue living on their own with added peace of mind. In some cases, fall detection technology can mean the difference between prompt medical attention and extreme health complications, and there are many affordable options available. It’s recommended that seniors who live alone look into a fall detection device for emergency medical assistance, should they ever require it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does fall detection really work?

With the rare false positive from time to time, yesfall detection technology does work and provides protection for those who need it.

Whether a person has a pendant, handheld device, or an Apple Watch (Series 4, 5, or 6) that offers fall detection, the product is equipped with an accelerometer or other sensor that can determine when a fall has taken place. Though false positives may occasionally occur, the algorithms that prompt fall detection are quite accurate, giving seniors who live alone a greater sense of security.

How much does a fall detector cost?

The cost of fall detectors and subscriptions vary; however, they are usually not unattainably expensive—even for those on a fixed income. For example, some of the services and devices listed in this article range from $25/month for a basic service to $54/month for more advanced services, such as Apple Watch compatibility. No matter what a person’s budget is, there is likely a fall detection service out there that would be a good match. For seniors who live alone, fall detection may be well worth the monthly investment.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the providers being reviewed. The providers and WirelessWizard assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this site. The information contained in this site is provided on an “as is” basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness and without any warranties of any kind whatsoever, express or implied.

Under the banner Tech For Seniors, WirelessWizard is pleased to share innovations for older adults—with a focus on deferring as much as possible the time when getting older gets in the way of living life independently. Check out all of tech-for-seniors content here.


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