Technology and Science, a recipe for independent living..
Dr Kim Delbaere, originally trained as a physiotherapist, has merged her passion for the physical body with technology and envisions a future where older adults can stay independent for longer using app based technology.
From the age of 65 years and older, falls happen frequently and affect quality of life. About one in three older people fall at least once a year, and about half of the falls lead to injuries that can cause mobility restriction during daily activities. Older people are often aware of the consequences of falling, with over half reporting a fear of falling.
Clinical trials have taught us that falls can be prevented at all ages. The single most effective way to prevent falls is to do specific exercises. However, in order for exercises to reduce a person’s fall risk, the person must do challenging balance training for at least two hours per week for a minimum of 6 months.
Long-term participation with these types of exercise programs can be poor due to the often boring nature of repetitive exercises. Also, many older people are not aware that exercise is a proven effective strategy for preventing falls.
Embracing technology to enable independent living for longer
We are focussed on finding solutions to support active and healthy ageing. We want to help older people do the necessary exercises so they can live independently for longer. Our pioneering work has led to the development of various new technology-based solutions that we hope to release on the market soon.
We are using new technologies to design exercise programs, individualised for each person, as no one person is the same. Our programs seek to offer a greater choice of exercises for people to keep things interesting. We have already released a range of mobile apps that assist in the assessment of fall risk, therefore working towards reducing falls. The use of technology in this area has opened up a world of possibilities like the convenience of doing the right training in the comfort of your own home wherever you are. As long as you have occasional access to the Internet, you can use our programs.
Standing Tall: we’re working on it!
We are particularly excited about one of our apps that is currently being tested, called Standing Tall. This unique program offers individually-tailored, progressive, high-intensity balance exercises, and includes an in-built coach and activity planner to encourage you to do your exercises more frequently. The activity planner lets you set your own goals and has optional reminders if you need to exercise more. The program also lets you to monitor your own progress.
So far, results show that the program is safe and easy for older people to use. Our participants have told us that they really enjoy doing the exercises Standing Tall offers and that it helps them to exercise more regularly. The next step for us is to conduct a randomised controlled trial (the gold standard for a clinical trial) to see if people keep using our program over a longer period and to test its effectiveness in falls prevention.
If successful, Standing Tall will increase the likelihood of older people taking part in, and benefiting from this type of fall prevention strategy.
Our aim is to promote healthy ageing by reducing falls, at a low cost for the health care sector. Following on from our trial, we aim to make the Standing Tall mobile app available to the general public. Watch this space…