CBC: Fitness instructor gives seniors a healthy fear of falls, then helps prevent them
The number of deaths related to falls among older adults is rising, and not just because the proportion of seniors in the Canadian population is increasing, said University of Manitoba kinesiology professor Jonathan Singer.
To illustrate this to his students, Singer likes to compare graphs showing the rate of deaths related to motor vehicle accidents to the rate of deaths related to falls. While the graph for vehicle-related deaths shows a steady decline, there is a steady uptick in the number of deaths related to falls.
This trend persists even when the increasing number of seniors in the population is accounted for, Singer said.
Singer studies the neurological mechanism involved in maintaining balance. Although researchers have made progress in understanding why older adults experience more falls, Singer says there is still a lot we don’t know.
He compares the body’s balance-control system to a “black box.”
“We don’t really know what goes on inside,” he said. The system takes input from the sensory organs — eyes, ears, skin, etc. — and then the body’s motor system uses that information to adjust the body and maintain balance.
“So the sensory information that comes in is sometimes misinterpreted by the brain,” Singer said.