ORONO — Babak Hejrati, director of the Biorobotics and Biomechanics Laboratory in the University of Maine Department of Mechanical Engineering, has received a more than $432,000 grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes on Health to create a novel wearable robotic system and intelligent methods that, for the first time, will enable home-based and independent walking training for older adults.
Maintenance of efficient walking ability is essential for high-quality and independent living in older adults. However, most older adults often demonstrate mild to moderate deficits in their walking that, if untreated, will lead to loss of mobility and increased risk of falls.
Many of the changes in walking seen with aging are a reflection of impaired motor control that are not ameliorated by conventional training interventions. Through this funded project, Hejrati and his team also will create training methods based on motor learning exercises to enhance older-adult users’ neuromotor systems and generate more effective and long-lasting improvements in their walking.
The long-term goal of this research is to merge the training unobtrusively into older-adult users’ daily living through seamless and low-profile wearable devices because neuromotor skills can be improved by regular training.
Hejrati is also a recipient of a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, which will enable his team to further expand their translational research in the areas of robotics, gait training and clinical gerontology.