Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have developed a new design for floors that they say could dramatically limit fall-related injuries in older adults.

The new floor is firm enough to withstand ordinary walking. But it "gives," or buckles, if a person falls, with the surface conforming to the part of the body that hits it. The floor is made up of two layers of an elastic material called urethane elastomer, with the layers separated by columns made of the same stuff. Thus it sags a bit under the weight of a heavy person or machine. At $7 to $10 a square foot, it costs up to four times as much as ordinary flooring, so it would be used mainly in nursing homes for people at high risk of falling. The Penn State team is developing a prototype that will be installed next spring in a central Pennsylvania nursing home.

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