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Reducing the Risk of Falling

Faculty Research - April 2016

Dr. Young-Hee Cho (Psychology) maintains a broad research interest in improving the psychological and physical well-being of older adults including identifying the risk factors for falls among older adults. She collaborates on this work with Dr. Olfat Mohamed (Physical Therapy), Dr. Vennila Krishnan (Physical Therapy), and Dr. Barbara White (Gerontology, Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) and engages students in these experiences.

Falls among older adults are a leading cause of serious injuries that can lead to hospitalization, nursing home admission, serious psychological consequences or even death. Many older adults avoid activities because they fear falling. Limiting physical activities, however, may cause losses in physical strength, physical and emotional functioning, and independence, and thus actually increase the risk of falling and negatively impact their health-related quality of life.

Dr. Cho and partnering faculty and student researchers are investigating the role of cognitive decline and balance impairment due to aging on falls, and the effectiveness of both cognitive and physical training on reducing the risk of falling.

Research has shown the effectiveness of a multifactorial balance program that includes physical training and home education. Because many falls occur while performing multiple tasks, current research on fall prevention focuses on the impact of an added cognitive task while walking on walking performance. The research team investigates the impact of different types of cognitive tasks (e.g., a task involving a short-term memory vs. a task involving an executive function) on walking performance.

An instructor works on preventing fall.

Her team also investigates the effectiveness of a multifactorial balance program on fall-prevention, utilizing falls and balance classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at CSULB. The multifactorial intervention program includes a 60-minute group exercise class that includes both cognitive and physical training, conducted twice a week for eight weeks by a certified balance instructor, and several educational sessions on balance and the prevention of falls. Participants also receive a brochure and recorded instruction for home exercise.

This systematic identification of risk factors associated with falls and investigation of the effectiveness of fall prevention programs on both physical and psychological factors are necessary to better understand the causes of falls and provide an effective prevention to a fast growing population of older adults.

Research @ the Beach | Faculty Research