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Preventing Falls in Seniors

Preventing Falls in Seniors

Falls Balance Injury
Preventing Falls in Seniors
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR KIM DELBAERE

Falls and fractures are a leading cause of hospitalisation in seniors, with one-third of people over 65, and one in two people over 80 experiencing a major 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.

Under the leadership of Associate Professor Kim Delbaere, a new world-first, technology-based program called StandingTall will start trials here in Australia and the UK over the next year, aimed at addressing the needs of correcting falls and balance in seniors.

StandingTall is an individually- tailored, home-based, fall prevention program developedaround a specific set of balance exercises. As an app, the cost of delivery is highly economical and is then easily deliverable across multiple cultures and languages worldwide.

The app includes over 2,000 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. The exercises are designed to train both static and dynamic balance skills, while standing on the floor, stepping in different directions, or up and down on a box.

This research aligns with local, state, national and international goals to reduce falls in olderpeople, in collaboration with eight project partners in both Australian and UK national health settings. In Australia, the project has three New South Wales policy partners who will provide strategic advice to implement the StandingTall program across the state. These policy partners are the NSW Office of Preventive Health, the Clinical Excellence Commission and the Agency for Clinical Innovation.

Four Australian-based clinical partners will support the practical implementation of StandingTall into practice. These include two partnering NSW Local Health Districts (Mid-North Coast, Northern NSW), Uniting and Austin Health in Melbourne, Victoria.

In addition, the trial will also involve the UK-based Northern Health Science Alliance.

Commenting on the UK interest, Associate Professor Kim Delbaere says, “it is exciting to see an Australian invention aimed at reducing falls and improving balance in older people starting an international journey, made possible by an NHMRC grant and support from our partners.”

“The collaboration with the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) happened quite organically, and it is pleasing to see their recognition of the benefits of this program developed over the last six years at NeuRA.”

“This international alliance understands the immense need to curb the rate of falls in seniors, which often leads to hip fractures and loss of independence resulting in greater costs for carers, communities, their families and loved ones,” says Associate Professor Delbaere.

Utilising an easy-to-deliver mobile technology platform, StandingTall has been designed to enable maintenance, tailoring and exercise progressions to be updated online, whilst levels and challenges keep the participants engaged and challenged at their own rate.

“The NHSA, together with the four North Academic Health Science Networks, is delighted to be a UK partner of StandingTall, an exciting international collaboration in falls prevention. We hope this is the beginning of a much wider collaboration between the North of England and the Australian Health system,” says Dr Hakim Yadi, Chief Executive of the NHSA.

“There is nothing like this tool in the world. Some of the program’s most successful features include its ease of use, the varied tailored options and progressively difficult exercises, and its compatibility with existing fall prevention and self-management programs.”

For those living in rural areas, StandingTall is a game changer as it can be delivered to a simple in-home mobile device which can assist in the prevention of falls and hence prevent the need for emergency medical care from a debilitating fall.

“Our previous research has taught us that, to prevent falls, older people should exercise for two to three hours per week, or as little as 20 minutes per day,” says Associate Professor Delbaere.

“By embracing technology, we are providing an alternative exercise opportunity, which is engaging, fun and motivating, hoping to generate higher levels of adherence over a longer period of time.”

“We believe this innovative program offers huge potential in helping older people across the north which is why we’re delighted to be supporting its roll-out in the region,” says Dr Yadi.

Our previous research has taught us that, to prevent falls, older people should exercise for two to three hours per week, or as little as 20 minutes per day

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