Accidental falls are one of the most common causes of injuries among seniors. Debilitating injuries range from short-term sprains, bumps, and bruises to fractures and head traumas which may require hospitalization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of five falls causes a serious injury and that each year 3 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries with 800,000 of those requiring hospitalization. Death rates due to an accidental fall as the underlying cause are on the rise.
Technology is providing various ways to combat the problem using balance games fitness programs, diagnosis of potential weak areas of balance and gait, and wearable sensor monitors and boards that measure progress in real time providing feedback as to how well the senior is faring in their overall physical stability.
Nintendo Wii Fit U combined with the Wii balance board was not designed with seniors specifically in mind however several games have been optimized for the needs of seniors and their workouts. One of the great features is that all you need is a TV and the Wii console game system. There is no need for seniors to leave their homes and the games do not require a lot of physical space. The balance board allows the game to track your movements and weight distribution, recognizing problems with your form or stance. Immediate feedback enables correction as issues arise. Using the Wii Fit can reduce falls and improve balance in seniors and it’s fun. Wii Fit U and other game console platforms such as the Microsoft Xbox One with Kinect and Sony PlayStation can provide in-home exercise for seniors that can help avert balance issues and ensuing fall injuries. The Wii Fit U, however, is better suited to senior exercise needs and monitoring of progress.
SmartBalance technology by HUR was specifically designed for older adults who experience balance issues and although there are games that are played the user is on a static sensor platform with grab bars, much like a treadmill minus the rotating belt. This technology is best for seniors who have more significant challenges in mobility. The stabilization games are interactive and fun while they help to build core strength and muscle memory. A unique design is available that allows a wheelchair platform access so the user can train without leaving their chair. Test results can be compared to normative data, and progress tracking is visual, intuitive, and motivational as customization of training and comparisons of previous balance tests provide progress assessment which helps to motivate the user.
QTUG, technology created by Kinesis Health Technologies of Ireland, can provide gate and mobility assessment and fall prevention data in as little as five minutes. Mobility parameters divide into five functional categories that include walking, variability, symmetry, transfers, and turning. The user wears inertial sensors that actively and accurately measure gait and mobility as they engage in simple tasks such as rising from a chair, walking 10 feet, and turning to sit in a chair again. Results of the tests are delivered to a mobile device like a smartphone via Bluetooth technology, and the senior or care provider can check the score that rates the seniorâ€™s fall risk as well as their mobility and frailty. This QTUG technology can export all patient results in an Excel format as well as create a comprehensive fall risk and mobility report for each test in a PDF format. All of the resulting data can be uploaded to the cloud for medical interpretation, recommendation, or referral. The testing results are automatically backed up, secure, and HIPAA compliant.
Older adults and seniors need to be very mindful of their balance and mobility. Catastrophic medical issues can occur with the simplest of falls and sometimes precipitate an earlier than anticipated death. Technology is at the forefront of detailed, individualized diagnoses and corrective exercise programs that when implemented can help prevent accidental falls. To find out which technology best suits your fitness level and needs, speak to trusted counsel who can point you in the right direction to help keep you secure in your physical movement.
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