Riding into the Sunset Years

Initial findings indicate Baylor Engineering researcher’s invention helps to reduce fall risk among seniors

January 25, 2024

Every day for years, Brian Garner, Ph. D., drove his 15-minute commute to work at Baylor University, a route which took him by a senior living community, The Delaney at Lake Waco. One day, the mechanical engineering professor felt led to turn into the parking lot, and so he went inside. He wasn’t sure why he was there.

Garner decided to ask if he could take a look around. An open door with sounds of group exercise caught his attention. Not wanting to interrupt, he peeked inside, but the mirrored wall in the room gave him away.

“Come on in and join us,” said a voice belonging to Debbie Gill, a physical therapist who was guiding a group of seniors through strength exercises with bungee cords.

After the class, Garner and Gill discussed the general health needs of the residents. Working certain muscles and maintaining or improving the ability to balance is key for senior health. Gill said she and Mary Jane Voltin, The Delaney’s marketing director, had been looking for a solution to increase movement-oriented therapy and exercise in their programs, and had been frustrated by a lack of available options. 

Garner’s Miracolt, a mechanical invention with a history of successful therapy applications, was a natural topic of conversation. Inspired by the benefits of horseback riding in hippotherapy, the MiraColt is a specialized, medical-grade motion simulator device designed to simulate the movements of horseback riding in a controlled and safe environment (watch video).

Seniors who experience a fall, or routine falling, are in much graver danger of serious injury, which often causes health to deteriorate at an accelerated rate than if the person had not experienced a fall. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other research compiled by the National Center on Aging:  

  • More than one out of four Americans age 65+ falls each year.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.  
  • Falls result in more than 3 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations. 
  • In 2015, the total cost of non-fatal fall injuries was $50 billion.  

Horse therapy long has been used to help treat human health issues, but of course, a horse is a horse: they aren’t exactly accessible to those living in senior care. However, Garner, Gill and Voltin agreed it was worth a shot to utilize the Miracolt  to perform a short study measuring results with seniors living at The Delaney at Lake Waco.


A common assessment used as a fall risk indicator is the Timed Up and Go (TUG), a test that requires seniors to stand up from a chair, walk a short distance, then turn around and return to a seated position in the same chair. Studies indicate those who are not able to perform the exercise at or under a certain time threshold are more likely to experience a fall.

At The Delaney, Garner conducted a short study with Baylor IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval. Resident volunteers performed the TUG as a baseline assessment, then completed twice-a-week treatment that included time riding the Miracolt. 

Afterward, the subjects again performed the TUG assessment. When compared to their previous speeds, every person had improved, and many of their times had moved from above the significant fall risk threshold to below it. These results were measured against a control group.

"I expected we would see some improvements, but to see 45% of our treatment group move from above fall-risk threshold to below, as well as to see improvements in hip and core muscle strengths, was very exciting,” said Garner.

The Delaney has purchased a MiraColt of their own. Garner said he has a PhD student who will be taking on more reearch in this area as his team considers possibilities for more in-depth studies in multiple locations. 

“The Delaney at Lake Waco was honored to partner with Baylor University on the proposed MiraColt study,” said Voltin. “Our residents were eager to participate in the treatment and afterwards share their successes. With the collaborative assets from all personnel, we developed an alliance and are looking forward to future endeavors.”

For more information on the Miracolt or this study, contact Dr. Brian Garner at Brian_Garner@baylor.edu.



Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) has been preparing its students for more than 25 years as innovators for worldwide impact by training graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian view. Students can choose from majors including bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering and mechanical engineering. ECS also offers graduate programs in all areas of study within the School. We stand out from the crowd through Christian commitment, a strong community, expert accessibility, leading practical experience and teamwork. Visit the ECS website to learn more and follow on Facebook and on Instagram.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.