Monday, August 14, 2006

New Zealand Tai chi Exercise schemes save elderly from falls

Exercise schemes save elderly from falls
Monday August 14, 2006
Exercise programmes financed by ACC are helping to save elderly people from falls.
One scheme is reducing falls and fall-related injuries in the elderly by a third, physiotherapy researcher Elizabeth Binns told a weekend conference in Auckland.
That scheme, the Otago Exercise Programme, was one of two ACC-funded falls-prevention schemes for the elderly, the Auckland University of Technology worker said.
The other was a modified form of tai chi, delivered as a community-based exercise group.
The Otago scheme, taught in people's homes, was prescribed individually and aimed to strengthen muscles and improve balance.
It had been available for two years in West Auckland, provided by nurses from primary health organisation HealthWest or its contracted clinics.
Falls are the most common cause of injury and the major cause of hospitalisation in people over 65 but researchers say a third of falls by the elderly could be prevented.
American researchers have found that 30 per cent of the elderly fall annually, half are repeat fallers, and 1 per cent of falls result in hip fracture.
A quarter of elderly people who fall will die within six months and 60 per cent have restricted mobility.
In New Zealand, falls by the elderly cost the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) around $100 million a year. They can be caused by muscle weakness, poor balance and vision and the effects of medication.
Elizabeth Binns said it was too soon to calculate the effects of the schemes on hospital admissions, but national figures on the Otago programme indicated that 58 per cent of participants had fallen at least once before starting the programme.
Yet six months after joining, only 26 per cent reported falling.
Dr Paul Lam, of the University of New South Wales, says in the latest issue of the journal NZ Family Physician that 16 weeks of modified tai chi can reduce falls in the elderly by 47.5 per cent.
"ACC is a world leader in utilising tai chi for falls prevention. In 2005, ACC funded over 200 modified tai chi classes in New Zealand for over-65-year-olds." Martin Johnston