Skip to content
Photo: Erica Lång
View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Research on balance performance on elderly

Published: 3 November 2016

In the BAHRT project, Balancing Human and Robot, researchers are looking at age induced changes in the integration of the senses and muscle reactions, and how these changes interact with the possible onset of fall-related concerns. The project is a collaboration between researchers in the fields of physiotherapy and control engineering.

– The purpose is to understand and describe the effects aging has on the control systems that make up our balance and to discover how these physiological changes and fall-related concerns modify one another. In the longer run, the aim is to then be able to influence these processes in order to decrease the risk of falls, says Mascha Pauelsen, researcher in the field of physiotherapy at Luleå University of Technology.

Balance performance declines as we age. Some develop fall-related concerns and some do not. These changes can lead to diminished quality of life, less opportunity to participate and more falls. A fall can have grave consequences. There are some hypotheses about these changes, but more knowledge is needed to be able to influence them, to decrease the risk of falls and fall-related concerns.

For this study 500 randomly selected addresses to people 70 years of age or older living independently within Luleå County were collected. A large part of these people have been visited in their homes where tests and questionnaires were completed. A smaller part of these visited people are also invited to come to the movement science laboratory at Luleå University of Technology, where balance performance and related physical functions are tested during 3,5 hours with a small break.

– Data collection is still ongoing, but we can see that the data is well spread. It is important that the group of people who participate cover the span of the population in the community when it comes to age, sex, balance performance and so on. The participants say they think it is important to contribute and they want us to succeed in describing what the population looks like when it comes to balance, says Mascha Pauelsen.

There is great interest in knowing more about how balance works. Pensioner’s associations Åkerbäret and PRO have expressed interest in listening to presentations on balance.