Prevention studies to help reduce falls

Prevention studies to help reduce falls

Two Simon Fraser University researchers are investigating, from different perspectives, how preventive measures can help reduce falls and fall-related injuries. Their research and expertise will shape the discussion at Surrey’s next Café Scientifique on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Central City Brew Pub.

Steve Robinovitch, who oversees SFU’s Injury Prevention and Mobility Lab, and Dan Marigold, assistant professor in BPK and organizer of the five-part Café Scientifique series, will talk on Falls and Mobility Impairments in Older Adults: from Lab to Life.

They’ll be joined by moderator Marcia Carr, a clinical nurse specialist with Fraser Health’s Program in Chronic Disease Management.

“Falls – one of the top 10 causes of death in older adults - and fall-related injuries are a major burden on the health care system,” says Robinovitch, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Injury Prevention and Mobility Biomechanics in SFU’s department of Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology.

Robinovitch and his research team are leading TIPS (Technology for Injury Prevention in Seniors), a Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) funded program bringing together local and international experts on aging and mobility research, utilizing and developing several technologies.

One project involves the video-capture of real-life falls and near falls, utilizing a network of 208 digital video cameras in a pair of long-term care facilities. Researchers are also testing the use of wearable fall monitoring sensors that detect and provide details about falls and mobility. Advanced protective gear, such as wearable hip protectors, is also being developed.

Researchers are also testing compliant flooring, potentially leading to building code changes for safer environments.

Marigold’s research focuses on how and when visual information is integrated by the nervous system and used to guide walking.

One of his lab’s research themes examines older adults with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or glaucoma. “These conditions, two of the leading causes of vision loss in Canada, result in a reduction in the available visual field and impair contrast sensitivity and depth perception, among other aspects of visual function crucial to safely negotiate different environments,” Marigold says.

“Not surprisingly then, the risk of falls is between 2-4 times greater in these individuals compared to healthy older adults.”

Marigold’s research aims to understand how the loss of vision in these populations relates to impairments in mobility, and how different ambient lighting levels influence these impairments, with the goal of developing safer environments.

Surrey’s Cafés Scientifique

The Café is the third in a series of free talks on key health issues by leading experts from SFU’s BPK and Fraser Health. Previous sessions targeted heart health and fast foods while two more – on salt intake and sudden cardiac death – are planned for February and March.

The sessions are sponsored by the CIHR and feature discussions with prominent experts in SFU’s BPK department and at Fraser Health.

The goal is to provide a forum for researchers and the community to share in informal discussions on health topics of shared interest.