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6.11.2018 14:00

Causes, effects and prevention of the fear of falling as the topic of an international seminar

Last week, the degree programmes and R&D of elderly care and physiotherapy organised an international seminar in Rovaniemi focusing on the well-being of the elderly, especially from the point of view of physiotherapy and health sciences.

Falling and the fear of falling cause human suffering and constitute a significant socioeconomic issue in all of Europe.

Among other things, the seminar involved a closer look at a research conducted at the Luleå University of Technology and Aalto University and the researchers.


Women fall more often than men

According to Lars Nyberg, professor of physiotherapy, the risk of falling for the elderly has been studied since the 1950s, although the research focused on data collection in the early years.

Current research confirms that elderly women fall more often than men do, and that regular exercise can effectively prevent the risks that lead to falling. However, physical exercise is not effective if there is a serious cognitive disorder such as dementia in the background. One of the challenges is to find the right intensity of exercise.


Posture control, reactions and senses

Posture control and the fear of falling are linked to each other. Doctoral researcher Mascha Pauelsen from the University of Luleå has studied the fear of falling and its effects using both interview and questionnaire studies and laboratory tests.

There are both psychological and physiological factors in the background of the fear of falling. The strength of the lower limbs is an important factor in retaining posture control, but reaction speed and the functioning of the senses also play a part.


Utilising virtual reality

The floor was also given to companies in the seminar. Peili Vision Oy uses a new concept of neurological rehabilitation that utilises virtual reality (VR). For example, the customer’s field of vision can be expanded with VR when there are disturbances in making visual observations. VR has also been used successfully in the rehabilitation of depression patients.

The HUR company, on the other hand, introduced the seminar audience to a test plan for the risk of falling and an exercise concept developed to prevent falling.


Brain plasticity

Research fellow Seija Vaalto from Aalto University has studied the ability of the brain to change through long-term gross motor skill exercise. Her suggestion for action is unambiguous: Don’t stop moving. If one has learned a skill or a sport in one’s youth, the skill will remain even after many years.


Mascha Pauelsen, PhD candidate in Physiotherapy at Luleå University of Technology

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Photos: Miisa Häyrynen