Category Archives: Research

Search for the Cure to the Common Fall

CBC’s ‘The Current’ today (March 29, 2018) had a long discussion of aging and falling.  Here is the link to listen to the full show.  The section on falling starts just after the 46:00 point in the show.

I don’t know how long this link will be active but if it’s broken, you may also be able to get to the show by going the website at and then selecting the Podcasts option.

I found the article interesting and particularly pertinent for parkies.  Here are some highlights taken from this story.


Good balance is the key to preventing falls.

Falls are one of the main reasons seniors get hospitalized.

Roughly one in five seniors that fall and fracture a hip die because of it.

“Once you’re down and hurt, the road back is long and difficult.”

“Improving balance and strength are factors that can help prevent falls.”

“New research is starting to shed more light on the brain-body connection.”


Around the 50:00 mark of the episode.

Anna Maria introduces research by Dr. Manuel Montero Odaso, Professor of Medicine and Geriatric Medicine at Western University studying the relationship between cognitive ability and falling.

Falls related to multitasking.

Brain exercises may help guard against falling.

Dual task training with tablets.

Exercises also improve cognition.

About 55 minutes into the episode, they talk to Drew of the Active Protective company that has create the ‘SMART BELT’, an air bag for the hips.

Dr. Montero indicates that hip protectors can work in specific situations but in general use there were unexpected results such as an increase in pelvis fractures.

Technology is welcome but must be proven in clinical trials.

Take home message:

  • Too much focus on injury.
  • Fractures are only 1 to 5 percent of results of a fall.
  • There are psychological effects: fear, depression, lack of engagement in activities.
  • Spiral of depression, less activity, more falls, often leading to placement in nursing homes.
  • In nursing home you will see a lot of people with both dementia and falls.

Exercises are good for mechanisms related to muscles and for the brain.


Around 1:00:45 point in the episode.

There’s a tape of a physiotherapist in the Netherlands about the safest way to fall (make yourself ’round’).

Around 1:01:40 point in the episode.

Anna Maria introduces Barbara Adams, a physiotherapist in Nova Scotia who has been teaching patients how not to fall for three decades.  She is also a Conservative MLA.

Most falls happen quickly — no time to think and fall correctly.

Natural instinct is to flail out arms and legs.

For a senior, a fall can be the difference between life and death.

Twenty percent chance of death from blood clots or pneumonia from broken hip.

Anything that puts you in bed has risk — breathing and circulation slow down.

Biggest misconception is that a fall is embarrassing — pick them up and move on.  Fall is a sign of physical and cognitive issues.  Never look at trying to prevent the next one.

Gave talks at Atlantic Balance and Dizziness Centre.  Start each talk with “I watched you all walk into the room and I know which of you is going to fall this year.”

Biggest misconception is that it’s an accident.

Outcome measures.  A good one is standing on one foot. You and I should be able to stand on one foot for 30 seconds without sway.  A senior should be able to do it for 10 seconds.

10 seconds on both feet — low chance of falling.  Less than 3 seconds — going to have a fall unless using proper aides.

Other outcome measures:

  • gait speed
  • step length

Fall causes fear that leads to less movement. Fear of addiction to pain meds can lead to stopping there use and then not walked because of the pain.

Health Care in NS funding in-house aides to avoid building nursing homes. Aides do work for patients so they become more sedentary.

Need to look at house. Furniture usually too low and too soft.  How much does one have to reach for dishes.

Senior with shoulder pain probably from using arms too much to stand up.

Vision controls 70% of balance so good lighting helps.

A senior is supposed to walk between 6000 and 8500 steps per day which is 60 to 85 minutes of walking.

Seniors are cocooned in their home: “The sitting disease.”

“The number one reason seniors are falling is that they sit too much.”

Three favourite exercises:

  • Walk, walk, walk.
  • Functional reach.
  • Squat — sitting to standing.  You and I: 5 times in less than 10 seconds;  Senior: 5 times in less than 17 seconds.




Dancing and Parkinson’s

Susan brought the following article from the Parkinson Post to my attention:

You should be dancing

Makes you want to start dancing again!

There is a Rhythm and Moves class that has been offered from time to time for Nanaimo area Parkies. There is no class at present because not enough people signed up but if enough interest materializes the instructors will reconsider the cancellation. If you are interested add a comment to this post or send us a message through the Contact page.


Cycling and Parkinson’s

An NBC news article on cycling and Parkinson’s disease was brought to my attention by one of our members.  Thanks Susan! The research shows that a few hours of ‘intense’ cycling a week can relieve PD symptoms. In fact the article says: “(cycling) can even do something that medicine can’t – slow down the progression of the disease itself.”  As the neuroscientist Jay Alberts at Cleveland Clinic says: “Exercise is, in fact, medicine.”

Jay founded an organization called “Pedaling for Parkinson’s” which promotes cycling for managing PD symptoms and has helped set up numerous cycling programs at YMCAs across America.

Hmmm! Maybe we should be running PD cycling classes here in Nanaimo…



Our new drumming class appears to be a success. We had 22 drummers in the third week up from 12 in week one. One thing that makes the class interesting is that it is not just about drumming. There’s hand-clapping, knee-slapping, foot-stomping and even singing.

The song that Dave has been teaching us is called Fanga (though it is often pronounced and written ‘funga‘) and is worth saying more about.

Fanga is an African greeting song. In our version, each line is sung first by the instructor and then echoed back by everyone else. The lyrics that we learned are:

Fanga alafia, ashe ashe

Fanga alafia, ashe ashe

Ashe ashe

Ashe ashe

Fanga alafia, ashe ashe.

Note that ‘ashe’ is pronounced ‘a-shay’. The song Fanga was written by Babatunde Olatunji, a Nigerian born who spent much of his life introducing African music to America. The words are from the Yoruba language of Nigeria while the melody is taken from the American song ‘Li’l Liza Jane‘. See the Wikipedia link for Fanga song for more historical information.

But fanga is not just a song – it is also a rhythm and a dance. Here are some audio and video links for Fanga that are worth checking out:

Now if we could just get our dancers, drummers and singers together maybe we could put on quite a show.


Cognition, Memory & Yoga

Laura Frey, who runs the Nanaimo Yoga class for persons with PD, recently forwarded the following link to me: Cognition and Memory in Parkinson’s Disease and Yoga: An Interview with Richard Rosen.

Richard Rosen is a California Yoga teacher who has adapted his program as a result of his PD diagnosis. The interviewer starts by asking:

What has been your personal experience with how yoga can affect cognitive function and memory?

Richard’s answer begins:

As soon as you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD), if you’re not already a yoga student, get yourself to a yoga class…

That’s pretty powerful. Read the whole interview – there’s lots more interesting insight and several links at the end of the interview for those wanting to dig deeper. And underneath the interview window is a whole new blog, Yoga for Healthy Aging, to explore.

Drumming is Coming to Nanaimo

Drumming (therapy) classes for PWP (Persons with Parkinson’s) is coming to Nanaimo.

After a successful demonstration at the February PD Support Group, the first of four weekly hour-long classes will take place on Wednesday March 1 2017 at 3pm. If all goes well and interest is good, there will be more sessions to follow.

Lessons will be led by Dave McGrath, a local Nanaimo drummer who also makes his own African style hand drums which we will use for the lessons. If you are interested in participating or just want more information and you are not a member of the support group (in which case you would have received an invitation email from us) then send us a message through the Contact Menu.

Djembe Drums By Vahram Mekhitarian - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Djembe Hand Drums
Image by Vahram MekhitarianOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Drumming as Therapy

A page on the website on the Therapeutic Effects of Drumming (accessed 2017-02-26) has the following:

Drum therapy is an ancient approach that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. From the shamans of Mongolia to the Minianka healers of West Africa, therapeutic rhythm techniques have been used for thousands of years to create and maintain physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Current research is now verifying the therapeutic effects of ancient rhythm techniques. Recent research reviews indicate that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self.

Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of drumming on Alzheimer’s patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, recovering addicts, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations. Study results demonstrate that drumming is a valuable treatment for stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, paralysis, emotional disorders, and a wide range of physical disabilities.

The article goes on to say:

Drumming Accesses the Entire Brain

The reason rhythm is such a powerful tool is that it permeates the entire brain. Vision for example is in one part of the brain, speech another, but drumming accesses the whole brain. The sound of drumming generates dynamic neuronal connections in all parts of the brain even where there is significant damage or impairment such as in Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). According to Michael Thaut, director of Colorado State University’s Center for Biomedical Research in Music, “Rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after a stroke or other neurological impairment, as with Parkinson’s patients…” The more connections that can be made within the brain, the more integrated our experiences become.

I’ve been to several of Dave McGrath’s evening group lessons and they are both fun and challenging – good exercise for the brain and the arms.

Research on Dancing and Parkinson’s

On January 23, CBC had an interesting article on Dancing and it’s effects on people with Parkinson’s Disease. The article, Dancing with Parkinson’s research, is worth a read. If you’re interested in trying a little dancing, Symphony Neuro-Rehab will run a Dance with Parkinsons class if enough people sign up.