Falls are one of the greatest problems facing ageing and older people. Due to age-related changes and frailty, individuals may unintentionally lose balance or stability while performing activities of daily living, even without any external cause. Loss of muscle mass, slowed pace of movement, decreased activity and some weight loss are just some of the factors that may lead to a fall. In such advanced ages, a fall may lead to serious individual problems, such as loss of confidence, fear of falling again and loss of independence.
Exercise programmes focusing on muscle strengthening and balance retraining can be effective as part of a fall prevention approach in both community and residential aged care settings. Exercise will affect not only physiologic variables (e.g. flexibility, balance, endurance, coordination) but also psychological variables, such as anxiety or depression. Homebased programmes and group programmes must therefore be challenging yet safe, and additionally they must provide the required enjoyment and enthusiasm to be performed with the desired frequency to be effective.
Currently, multiple ICT-based solutions for falls prevention exist. However, most of these solutions do not focus in reducing specific fall risk factors like muscle mass loss or poor balance.
The proposed fall prevention solution is based on an existing home based moderate intensity fall prevention programme developed by Prof. C. Melo, which targets the Portuguese population. This exercise programme is focused on specific fall risk factors, including lower limb strength, balance, muscle endurance, flexibility and voluntary stepping.
Therefore, and taking advantage of the smartphone processing capabilities as well as of the inertial and position sensors built-in the smartphone (magnetic sensor, gyroscope and accelerometer), a solution was developed to support the execution and evaluate specific fall prevention exercises.
The smartphone can be a friendly and inexpensive solution capable of increasing seniors’ adherence to fall prevention exercises as well as raise their motivation to properly execute the exercises. The results achieved in this dissertation suggest that the use of portable devices like a smartphone to evaluate and support the execution of fall prevention exercises can be of great value for older adults. In the future, exercises can be adapted to serious games, therefore increasing the motivation required to perform the exercises regularly.
Author: Bruno Ferreira
Type: MSc thesis
Partner: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto