Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people over 75 in the UK. They can often be catastrophic for an older person‚Äôs physical and mental health and can leave long lasting scars. Falls amongst the elderly have additional repercussions for all sectors of society and in particular the NHS. The cost of falls to health and social care services and to patients themselves is enormous. It is estimated that the overall direct healthcare cost to the NHS is ¬£15 million every year. An increase in the elderly population has further consequences for the future as a growing elderly population who are more susceptible to falls and injury will place unprecedented pressures on the NHS and those involved in the direct care of the elderly. Falls can be avoided through preventative measures which take into account the risk factors involved. These include balance, impairment, muscle weakness, polypharmacy and environmental hazards. There have been numerous interventions in the prevention of falls, however few trials have been carried out in the UK.
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The University of Greenwich has recognised this and have been carrying out studies which have focussed on the use of exercises as a preventative measure to reduce muscle weakness. By encouraging the elderly to participate in a series of exercises and by monitoring the outcomes, the University of Greenwich hopes to actively tackle the issues of falls through research and ongoing studies. It is hoped that this will not only reduce the pressures on the NHS but will also increase the quality of life for older people through the promotion of an active and healthy lifestyle enabling them to live as full a life as possible. Current MSc study is looking at two specific chair based exercises to increase mobility in the elderly population. The exercises included the use of light loads which are suitable to be used by all populations especially those that can‚Äôt handle heavy loads. The research being carried out at the University of Greenwich has involved the use of volunteers from a local church group. The volunteers consisted of three groups, Group A, B and C, aged 60 to 80 who meet up twice a week for a period of eight weeks. The initial outcomes are still being analysed and the first stage of the research is coming to an end. Preliminary results indicate a 23% increase in maximal strength and a 12% increase in power of the volunteers that took part. The university is now expanding its research to include further exercises so that a programme of specific exercises can be built that will show improvement in activities in daily living (ADL). The costs involved cover the appointment of a research associate for a period of two years to carry out further intensive study and research.
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