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The WinterLab can recreate typical Canadian winter conditions - sub-zero temperatures, snow and ice covered surfaces, and winds up to 30 km/hour - within the safety of a controlled laboratory setting. Scientists can study winter slips and falls, and the extremes of cold air and wind, without exposing study participants to the risks these conditions pose in the real world.

To add another dimension to this research, the lab’s motion platform can be tilted to create slopes, or can be moved suddenly to safely upset a subject’s balance, providing scientists an opportunity to test how people and devices respond to such circumstances.

How? Monitored by a motion capture system, study participants are strapped into a body harness connected to an overhead robot that will move with them as they go about their tasks. A pulley mechanism, like a seatbelt, tightens immediately, but gently, to prevent injury in the event of a fall.

The Research: WinterLab will be used for myriad projects, including the development and testing of new winter clothing and footwear and improvements to mobility aids, such as wheelchairs and walkers, so that they perform better on inclined and winter icy and snow-covered surfaces.

Quick Facts:

  • 43.4 per cent of seniors report having a disability that limited their activities; 56.3 per cent of those aged 75 and older reported a disability; and many are isolated at home for long stretches during winter months.
  • Over 21,000 Ontarians visit an emergency room because of slips and falls on ice and snow each winter.
  • The physiological effects of freezing temperatures can be hazardous to your health. Canadian seniors over age 85 had up to 16% higher rates of heart attack deaths in winter than in summer, and 19% higher stroke rates.