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BACKGROUND: Falls and fall-related injuries are symptomatic of an aging population. This study aimed to design, develop, and deliver a novel method of balance training, using an interactive game-based system to promote engagement, with the inclusion of older adults at both high and low risk of experiencing a fall.
STUDY DESIGN: Eighty-two older adults (65 years of age and older) were recruited from sheltered accommodation and local activity groups. Forty volunteers were randomly selected and received 5 weeks of balance game training (5 males, 35 females; mean, 77.18 ± 6.59 years), whereas the remaining control participants recorded levels of physical activity (20 males, 22 females; mean, 76.62 ± 7.28 years). The effect of balance game training was measured on levels of functional balance and balance confidence in individuals with and without quantifiable balance impairments.
RESULTS: Balance game training had a significant effect on levels of functional balance and balance confidence (P < 0.05). This was further demonstrated in participants who were deemed at high risk of falls. The overall pattern of results suggests the training program is effective and suitable for individuals at all levels of ability and may therefore play a role in reducing the risk of falls.
CONCLUSIONS: Commercial hardware can be modified to deliver engaging methods of effective balance assessment and training for the older population.