In icy weather, everyone is in danger of slips and falls. But for older adults, dangerous slips and falls can happen anytime – even in their own homes.
Dr. Sue Robinson, physical therapy professor at Missouri State University, wants to prevent these falls.
“When you fall, you run the risk of never bouncing back,” Robinson said.
She uses technology to assess real versus perceived balance. Then, she and a team of faculty and students prescribe exercises to improve gait and balance.
Technology to keep you safe
One device, the Bertec Balance Advantage, uses “immersive virtual reality to create more of a real-life visual environment,” she said.
Her team was also the first to test the Bioness System on people with impaired gait associated with diagnoses like cerebral palsy, stroke, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. This system uses two cuffs on the legs to stimulate the muscles needed to walk.
She says they were amazed by the improved gait in some of the clients.
Lack of confidence vs. overconfidence
“Whether it’s a balance issue related to illness, injury or simply from aging, confidence is one of the biggest obstacles to safety,” she said.
Overconfidence, she says, causes individuals to put themselves in precarious positions.
“On the flip side, I’ve also seen many who have become so fearful that they stop exercising or even attempting various tasks associated with daily living.”
Her goal is to get individuals in an active lifestyle that is safe for their abilities.