NeuRA falls prevention research showcased at NBN launch

A NeuRA project to reduce the incidence of falls among older people was showcased at the launch of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Kiama on Friday.

Developed by senior scientist Dr Stuart Smith, the project involves an exercise regime for older people using a dance mat video game, which can be monitored remotely by health professionals using high speed internet.

Smith says: “With a growing number of people having to care for family members living with diseases that affect their mobility or their mind, a reliable high speed broadband network such as the NBN for monitoring and improving their state of health is a huge breakthrough.”

Falls are more common – and more dangerous – in people aged 65 years and older. Falls can result in serious injuries, such as hip fractures, and a fear of falling, which can lead to reduced activity and a loss of independence.

Dr Smith is working with developers to design video game solutions – like the dance mat – designed to improve balance and motor skills. These games are a way of engaging people in repetitive exercise that they may not do otherwise, he says.

“Our tests show video games can also be used equally well in rehabilitation programs for people recovering from stroke, spinal cord injuries or those with Parkinson’s disease, and potentially for people with dementia, brain damage and disorders. The applications are endless,” says Dr Smith.

An important part of the solution is a facility that allows health professionals to conduct in-home consultations and monitor progress via video conferencing over broadband. In the dance mat project, this is delivered via a television in the person’s home equipped with a video camera.

“The real value of this solution lies in the video feedback, with doctors being able to see how people move and monitor their progress. High speed transmission of data via the NBN is essential for this,” says Dr Smith.

“The NBN will make these new solutions accessible to people across the country, even in rural areas, and that’s really exciting.”

Watch the story on SBS World News Australia

Read about Dr Stuart Smith’s dance mat research in BRW magazine online