All participants in the research project. Researchers Marlene Sandlund, Helena Lindgren, Christina Ahlgren and Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn missing from the picture. Photographer: Marlene Sandlund View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Training app for elderly to prevent falls

Published: 19 November 2014

Safe Step is an application to motivate elderly people over 70 years to start training to reduce the risk of falling. The app is a result of close collaboration between scientists and citizens between 70 and 80 years old.

– Falling costs much suffering and money. With exercise, the sense of balance improves and thereby prevent fall injuries. The body and head are not calibrated because the head is still 28 years old, but the body is 78, laughs Swen Tjäderborn, one of the seniors who participated in the project.

Working with senior citizens

Falls are the leading cause of injury in older age. Research has shown that specific training of balance and strength reduces the risk of falling by about 30 percent.
In a research project between the Department of Health Sciences at Luleå University of Technology and the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Umeå University has a prototype for a training application developed. It has been done in close collaboration between researchers with expertise from physical therapy, informatics and computer science, training, e-health, technology and gender, and 18 citizens between 70 and 80 years.

– We have other experiences and can be references to the younger ones. It is supremely good that we get to be involved in the project, says Swen Tjäderborn.

The app contains a number of films with a variety of proven prevention and balance exercises. The user is able to self-assemble a training program with different exercises and also choose a level of difficulty. The application is supposed to be available in a smartphone or tablet.

– From Luleå University of Technology, we have expertise in participatory methodology, where we are working in several projects in collaboration with elderly people. It is important to take note of their opinions so the result will be as good as possible, says Anita Melander Wikman, researcher in physical therapy.

Honorary Best Paper

Träningsappen has received considerable attention. At the Senior Fair at Nolia this autumn, the target group showed great interest for the app. Also at the International Conferens on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technologies, held in Gothenburg in early September, the article Towards a mobile exercise application to preventable falls: a participatory design process got the honorable mention Best paper and a lot of attention from international researchers.

The research team has also recently received 2.9 million of Vårdalstiftelsen to test the app on a new group of older people.

– This great encouragement allowe us to continue the work, and in the future the hope is that physiotherapists at health centers can advise patients to download the application, says Anita Melander-Wikman.

The research project is led by Professor Lillemor Lundin Olsson and includes Helena Lindgren, Marlene Sandlund, Petra Pohl and Christina Ahlgren from Umeå University and Anita Melander-Wikman, Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn from Luleå University of Technology.


Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn

Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Vice-Chancellor, Professor

Phone: +46 (0)920 491327
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