The incidence of falls and falls-related injury continues to increase with the ageing population and as health professionals, we try and work with older adults to reduce their risk of falling as much as they can. Environmental modification is one way to reduce the risk of falls, and so too is exercise! Exercise that incorporates balance and strength based activities are effective in reducing falls in older adults living in the community. Older people living in rural or remote areas are not only at risk of falls, but are also at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness; potentially leading to negative effects on their physical and mental well-being.
In August this year we collaborated with West Coast Home Care and Tim Manning (Exercise Physiologist - EP Physio Plus) to develop a wellness and reablement group program to meet the needs of older adults in Port Lincoln and surrounding areas. The group aim was to target the physical and mental wellbeing in older adults by promoting social connection and falls prevention in a fun and safe environment. The group was structured in a way that incorporated fun circus moves (including coordinated juggling, spinning plates and balancing activities); encouraging participants to learn, train their brain, have a laugh and also reap the benefits of tailored strength and balance exercises. Participants that were identified as being socially isolated and at risk of falls were encouraged to attend the group.
The 9-week PILOT group which ran once a week for 1.5 hours had positive results with regards to the physical and mental wellbeing of the participants who attended. Pre and post outcome measures were administered including the Timed Up & Go, Five Times Sit to Stand Test and Assessment of Quality of Life - 8D (AQOL-8D). In all 3 tests that were administered, there was an overall reduction in scores at the end of the 9-week program, indicating improved overall mobility and quality of life for the participants. Both Tim and I were ecstatic at the results!
For the Timed Up & Go Test, there was an average improvement of 4.98 seconds (35%) with the average score reducing from 14.3 seconds to 9.3 seconds, suggesting improved mobility, balance and walking ability and reduced risk of falls. With regards to the 5x Sit to Stand Test, there was an average improvement of 7.17 seconds (37%) from 19.1 at the start of the group program to 12 seconds by the end of the program. The AQOL-8D was administered at the end of the 9-week program and there was an average 3-point reduction in scores, indicating improved overall quality of life. In particularly, scores indicated that there was a reduction in worrying, feelings of social isolation and despair, difficulty sleeping and feelings of being a burden. Scores also suggested reduced reliance on others, reduced sadness and reduced difficulty moving around. AQOL-8D post-measure scores highlighted that participants felt an increase in energy, ability to cope, confidence, feeling content in life and happiness.
One participant said that she “thoroughly enjoyed the group and would recommend it to others.”
Feedback forms were provided to group members at the end of the program with one participant commenting that the “company was great.” Another participant commented that it was the “fun and friendliness” that they enjoyed most about the group.
Whilst the number of participants in the PILOT group was small, the positive outcomes have given us great faith that this kind of group program can really benefit older adults in our community. As a result, we are now running two groups a week this term and hope to continue the group into next year - as well as spread our wings to communities on the EP beyond Port Lincoln!
For more information on the group program and referrals, please feel free to contact us!
Brooke George, Occupational Therapist