Category Archives: Technology

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.




Device Helps Control Hand Tremors

I found the following December 7 BBC story, The invention that helped me write again, from a posting on a Facebook page for Young Onset PD (YOPD). The article, which includes a cool 3 minute video, shows how a special vibrating wrist-band can greatly reduce the hand tremors of Emma, a young woman with YOPD, to the point where she can do graphic design again. The effects of this device are pretty spectacular. Apparently it was inspired by spoons that can reduce tremors through a feedback vibration. I have not been able to find out any information on availability as a commercial device though.