Support Vector Machines (SVMs) Based Framework for Classification of Fallers and Non-Fallers

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Virginia Tech

The elderly population is growing at a rapid pace, and falls are a significant problem facing adults aged 65 and older in terms of both human suffering and economic losses. Falls are the leading cause of mortality among older adults, and non-fatal falls result in reduced function and poor quality of life for older adults. Although much is known about the mechanisms and contributing risk factors relevant to falls, falls still remain a significant problem associated with this age group. Therefore, new strategies and knowledge need to be introduced to understand and prevent falls.

Studies show that early detection of impaired mobility is critical to the prevention of falls. In this study, the relationship between gait and postural parameters and falls among elderly participants using wearable inertial sensors was investigated. As such, the aim of this study is to investigate the critical gait and postural parameters contributing to falls, then further to classify fallers and non-fallers by utilizing gait and postural parameters and machine learning techniques, e.g. support vector machines (SVMs). Additionally, as the assessment of fall risk is linked to noisy environment, it is important to understand the capability of the SVM classifier to effectively address noisy data. Therefore, the robustness of the SVM classifier was also investigated in this study.

In summary, the presented work addresses several challenges through research on the following three issues: 1) the significant differences in gait and pastoral parameters between fallers and non-fallers; 2) a machine learning based framework for classification of fallers and non-fallers by using only one IMU located at the sternum; and 3) robustness of SVM classifier to classify fallers and non-fallers in a noisy environment.

The machine learning based framework developed in this dissertation contribute to advancing the state-of-art in fall risk assessment by 1) classifying fallers and non-fallers from a single IMU located at the sternum; 2) developing machine learning method for classification of fallers and non-fallers; and 3) investigating the robustness of SVM classifier in a noisy environment.

Support vector machines, Machine learning, Fallers and non-fallers, Gait and postural parameters, Feature extraction, Robustness