Falls Prevention Exercise – vital for elderly across Winter

Assoc Prof Kim Delbaere and her team enroll over 400 participants  to trial and expand innovative at-home solutions for  older Australians to self-manage their health.

Commenting on the importance of balance management in the over 65 age group Assoc Prof Delbaere says, “deterioration of balance is due to a number of aging issues, but can be assisted by doing a series of simple in-home exercises.

Falls and fractures account for over half of all injury related healthcare costs with one-third of people over the age of 65 and one-in-two people over 80 experiencing a fall each year. For older Australians, the social and personal impact of a fall can be enormous; especially when the fall results in mobility-related disability and a sudden loss of independence. For many older people, falls are an inevitable part of the ageing process. At NeuRA, Assoc Prof Delbaere challenges that assumption and provides hope for both individuals and their family that the risk of falls, and the resulting reduction in quality of life, can be reduced. Assoc Prof Delbaere and her team are using new technology to help older Australians most at risk of falls stay physically and mentally active to improve their balance and prevent falls. There is clear evidence that falls in older people can be prevented with exercise programs which include at least moderately challenging balance training to be performed frequently. Incorporating a new exercise regimen into daily life is challenging for many older people due to poor exercise tolerance and enjoyment.

Mobile technology offers various benefits to overcome many of the barriers to uptake and adherence to exercise. It can provide immediate performance feedback and real-time monitoring, as well as optional support from clinicians and/or peers, which allows people to obtain help when needed. The application ‘Standing Tall’ developed in 2013-2014 at NeuRA, is currently being used daily in the homes of over 420 participants in the Sydney-based study and delivers a tailored evidence-based exercise program to the participants. The application includes over 2000 exercises with video instructions and is designed for older people to use independently at home. It allows participants to choose when and for how long they exercise throughout the week with a recommended dose of two hours of exercise each week. The exercises are designed to train static balance (semi-tandem, tandem, standing on one leg) and dynamic balance (leaning balance, walking), while also training on an unstable surface (i.e. foam cushion), stepping in different directions on the exercise mat and stepping on a box. While Assoc Prof Kim Delbaere and her team monitor the data for their research, participants are also able to self-monitor progress as their balance scores improve and set goals for their exercise regime. Feedback and positive reinforcement on performance are provided after each session and at the end of the week.

A goal-setting feature also guides people to identify any personal barriers and enablers to reaching the weekly recommended exercise dose. This helps each individual to identify a way to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. Assoc Prof Delbaere has made major progress in understanding fall risk from physiological, psychological and cognitive perspectives as well as in the development of efficacious fall prevention strategies. Her technological solutions to predict and prevent falls are pioneering the field and it is expected that these programs will be widely implemented by policy makers and industry. The next stage of Assoc  Prof Kim Delbaere’s team research is to continue studying healthy ageing and the role of the ageing brain on the exponential increase of fall risk in older people. For a person to age well, their body has to function well, they have to feel good and their brain needs stay on-guard. Her research addresses each of these domains of moving-feeling-thinking in her prediction and prevention models.

Assoc Prof Delbaere talking about falls in elderly:

For detailed information please visit the Standing Tall program