On October 19th, 2010 Dr. Kim Delbaere, research fellow from Neuroscience Australia – University of New South Wales visited with members of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (CHHM) as well the CIHR New Emerging Team – Vancouver Integrated Study on Aging (VISA) lead by Dr. Karim Khan, Professor in the Department of Family Practice at UBC and CHHM Hip Fracture Theme Co-leader.
Dr. Delbaere presented research on fear of falling and falls prevention – data that has recently been published in the British Medical Journal. She discovered that older adults with a range of physical capacities reside along a spectrum of fear when it comes to falling. “There are ‘risk takers’ – those who know that they are at risk of falling yet they continue engage in behaviours and activities that put them at risk. Others are perfectly capable physically, but they have a lot of fear and anxiety about falling, so they avoid exercise and physical activity.” Dr. Delbaere has established methodology to successfully identify and group a cohort of Australian seniors in terms of actual fall risk and falling fear. Next steps include the development of appropriate strategies to intervene, mitigate fall risk and improve quality of life. Identifying the root cause of the fear of falling among the groups is of interest for future research.
The presentation by Dr. Delbaere sparked some energetic conversation among attendees, which included research partners from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and BC Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport as well as CHHM investigators and trainees. Many topics were discussed, including the rigor of tools methodologies to collect research and clinical data on falls and fear of falling, the need to incorporate qualitative methodologies to uncover the root cause of fear of falling and the influence of culture on fear of falling and fall risk. Attendees raised questions about fear of falling and the influence of access to community services, the role of the built and social environments as well as the role of public health messaging in education. Dr. Delbaere also set aside some time to discuss current issues in the field of falls research with CHHM trainees and fellows.