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Dr. Carol Maritz
Falling is bad news for senior citizens—oftentimes resulting in life-changing injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and an increased risk of early death. New research findings at University of the Sciences into how and why seniors fall may provide health care professionals with insight on improved balance and strength-training strategies to prevent tumbles by the elderly.
“One in three individuals over the age of 65 experience a fall,” said Carol A. Maritz, PT, EdD, a board-certified geriatric clinical specialist and physical therapy professor at USciences. “However, aside from our findings, current research lacks evidence regarding the impact of a short-term balance-based exercise regimen on community-dwelling older adults.”
Students and faculty in the Department of Physical Therapy at USciences recently completed a study which explored the effectiveness of a five-week balance-training exercise program designed to focus on the lower extremity strength, balance, and fear of falling in seniors over the age of 60. Researchers worked closely with more than a dozen men and women at a senior center in Northeast Philadelphia, and tailored the exercise program to each participant’s needs.
Members of Dr. Maritzes research team, from left to right, were Chanele Criswell DPT'15, Laura Carignan DPT'15, Tara Gannon DPT'15, Christine Sandilands DPT'15, Natalie Farah DPT'15, and Sona Singh DPT'15.
The seniors’ pre- and post-test evaluations included a self-report questionnaire in which patients rated their balance confidence for performing activities, as well as consisted of various physical and computerized tests which measured each senior’s strength and balance before and after completing the short-term exercise program.
The study results found that a short-term balance program can improve lower extremity strength, balance confidence, and functional mobility in the older population; thereby, reducing their risk of falling. Even though there were no significant changes in dynamic balance, there was a positive trend suggesting the benefit of a short-term training program.
Dr. Maritz and her research team presented their results during the University’s 13th annual Research Day on Thursday, April 9.
Spending just a few weeks working to improve balance can make a big difference in strength and flexibility, according to a study at USciences.