Reducing falls in seniors

Each year, 30% of seniors have at least one fall—half of whom fall more than once. In fact, 9 out of 10 hip fractures result from falls. These falls can have dire consequences, 20% lead to death and a further 20% result in seniors being admitted to care homes for the balance of their life. Fortunately, falls are preventable, and there is evidence that the Otago Exercise Program, which consists of strength and balance training delivered by a physiotherapist, can reduce falls in seniors.

Arthritis Research Canada’s senior research scientist Dr Linda Li is co-leading a team of fellow scientists, arthritis research trainees, and patient experts in a 3-year study and randomized trial using the traditional Otago program or an enhanced version that includes an exercise coach. The research team recently demonstrated that exercise coaching with the use of a consumer wearable, such as a Fitbit, was feasible and could help older adults with chronic disease to stay active. A key element was to empower the person to develop realistic exercise goals.

In this project, the team will test two methods of delivering the Otago program, which includes a new coaching approach by a physiotherapist and the use of a Fitbit to provide feedback (versus the traditional delivery, which is the current standard). The team will measure success by the degree to which the program is delivered as intended, and the degree to which it is followed by seniors at 12, 18, and 24 months. The number of falls, risk of falling, and participation in walking activities between the two groups will also be assessed over time. In addition, the team will assess whether the coaching approach is a cost-effective option for delivering the Otago program. To read more about Dr Li and her work, visit

. Reducing falls in seniors. BCMJ, Vol. 62, No. 1, January, February, 2020, Page(s) 33 - News.

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