T. Crawford, S. Johnston, N. Halfman, R. Ellington, C. Papadopoulos

Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA

The number of older adults is rapidly growing and so are their healthcare needs. Maintaining mobility and independence has become a key priority in keeping older adults healthy. Each year, millions of older adults fall. Falling once doubles the chances of falling again. Many people who fall, even without an injury, become afraid of falling while doing daily activities. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to assess changes in perceived fear of falling in a group of older adults after participating in an exercise class meant to improve their balance and agility. METHODS: Seven older adults (age: 80.4 ± 9.91 years) from a local community center with varied experience in physical activity participated in a 12-week program emphasizing on different stepping patterns. All participants completed a series of functional assessments to determine mobility, static and reactive compensatory balance. In addition, the Fall Efficacy Survey (FES), a 16-item survey to assess fear of falling, was administered at baseline and at the end of the program. A paired t test was used to determine differences in fear of falling between pre and post. A Pearson's correlation coefficient was used to determine the relationship between functionality and fear of falling. Significance was set at p < 0.05. RESULTS: Total score from the FES was not significantly (p = 0.76) different between baseline and after twelve weeks of training. Statistical analysis showed a significant (p = 0.03) negative relationship (r = -0.68) between confidence going up and down stairs and functional reach and a significant (p=0.03) negative correlation (r= -0.70) between confidence walking up and down stairs and backwards compensatory stepping. Finally, a significant (p=0.03) negative relationship (r= -0.42) between the participants’ overall Fall Efficacy Survey score and timed up and go test was found. CONCLUSION: In this group of older adults, over the course of a 12-week agility stepping program, there was a significant relationship between confidence walking up and down stairs and the ability to reach for an object and the ability to step backwards to compensate for a slip. However, there was a large interindividual variability in confidence indicating that further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of the program on fear of falling.

Supported by West Region EMS Grant

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