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Self-assessing the 6 subcomponents of balance

Self-testing the 6 subcomponents of balance can help assess risk of falls, and then match you with the right exercises to reduce this risk.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

People ages 55 and older need to understand the connection between balance and fall prevention. In fact, poor balance is the number one predictor of falls. Balance is not one concept, but is made up of 6 subcomponents. Educating people to self-assess these subcomponents with an app demonstrating physical tasks at home, can help identify areas of concern. This assessment can then lead to the development of individualized exercise programs that would improve balance and prevent falls.

Why should we care about balance?  ¬óBalance is essential for mobility and day to day independence¬ó in those 55 and older.  Furthermore, balance is the major modifiable risk factor for falls in elderly. In fact, it has been shown that a multi-component individualized exercise program reduces rate of falls, risk of falling and risk of fall-related fracture. The key is that the exercise program has to challenge balance and coordination.  It also has to target the subcomponent of balance that is impaired

There are a total of 6 subcomponents to balance: 1) biomechanical constraints; 2) stability limits; 3) anticipated postural adjustment; 4) postural responses; 5) sensory orientation and 6) stability in gait.  Each subcomponent can be tested with one simple physical task that an individual can do at home. 

We want to make this readily available to older individuals through an app that can: 

1- Teach the connection between balance and falls 

2- Provide individuals with the right assessment tools and physical tasks

3- Determine and share which subcomponent is impaired 

4- Match individuals with a specific set of exercises targeted to improve the subcomponents that are impaired.

5- Potentially measure and individual's improvement over time 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We will engage a group of older adults to test their subcomponents of balance in their own homes using the simple physical tasks. Based on their results, we will develop an individualized home exercise programs and examine their experience and adherence with them. We will then assess their balance and confidence before and after the exercise program. We will also seek tips on how to refine the process so it can be easily formatted into an app.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We believe this idea can be hugely impactful and would look for the support of UX researchers and designers, health car professionals, especially physical therapists, as well as access to individuals in the community that would help us understand more about user needs and behaviors.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

Tell us about your work experience:

Dr Dina Brooks, a seasoned research scientist and physiotherapist and Rima Sinno, a UX designer, are collaborating to address the issue of fall assessment and prevention. We're relying on data gathered from Dr Brooks' ongoing scientific research on balance and falls at the University of Toronto.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Gregg

Diana and Rima: This seems like a good idea to me, and I am in your target demographic. I particularly like the differential diagnosis and prescriptions so I could focus only on building up in my areas of weakness. I'll volunteer to be an beta tester.

I can see your app being used by individuals, by physicians who address preventive health practices and have older patients, by physical and occupational therapists, and by leaders of group exercise sessions for older people.

Please keep working on this even if you don't win one of the Challenge prizes.

Photo of rima sinno

Thanks Gregg for the support and for volunteering to be a beta tester!

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