Falls Prevention Research Laboratory

Falls are a major threat to the health of the elderly around the world. Thirty-three to 50% suffer a fall each year with substantial physical, psychological, and economic costs. The research program undertaken in the Falls Prevention Research Laboratory is of two fold: 1) Epidemiological research related to the surveillance and monitoring of falls and fall-related injuries among the elderly and 2) Intervention research focusing on the understanding of the underlying mechanisms of factors associated with falls among the elderly. Specifically the role of exercise and nutrition to improve an individual’s capacity to carry out activities of daily living and to decrease the frequency of debilitating falls are examined.

Funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Falls Prevention Research Laboratory at the University of Regina is equipped with equipments to measure functional level, nutritional status, and fall risk among the elderly in the lab- and field-based settings. While some elderly will be able to participate in laboratory based studies, others may not be able to leave their home yet would benefit greatly from targeted interventions. As such, this research program with the infrastructure will bridge the lab-based investigation with the applied setting intervention and fill the gap in research involving frail elderly. For lab testing, a Gaitway Instrumented Treadmill, Biodex Stability System, Life Measurement Inc. BodPod Body Composition System, and Cybex MG 500 Resistance Training Equipment are some of the equipment used. For field testing, a Kistler Portable Force Plate, a Telemetry Electromyography system, and a number of applied functional tests which do not require the use of any equipment except a measuring tape and a timer as in the case of Timed Up and Go test (measures functional mobility), sit to stand test (measure lower extremity strength) and the 6-minute walk (measure functional endurance) are used in this research. In addition, the falls prevention laboratory is equipped with computers and specialized software for assessing the trends and patterns of falls and related injuries using large, provincial and/or national datasets for epidemiological studies.

The higher incidence of falls, coupled with substantial human and economic costs, makes it critical to pursue innovative and leading-edge research as well as evidence-based programs and policies to better support health and prevent falls among the elderly. Saskatchewan provides a unique setting for this research program, given the higher percentage of elderly (15%), people living in rural and small towns (43%), and aboriginal peoples (14%). The research program taking place in the Falls Prevention Research Laboratory aims to forge future studies in areas where lab based investigations will not be possible as in the case of working with the elderly in the remote areas and hopes to enhance the quality of life for the elderly through the reduction of falls and the disability that follows from them. If you are interested in being a part of the falls prevention research team, please contact Dr. Shanthi Johnson (Professor & Associate Dean - Research and Graduate Studies at shanthi.johnson@uregina.ca or 306-337-3180).