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Coming soon: Tetris, Word Scramble and Pacman for falls prevention?

Neuroscience Research AustraliaUsing interactive gaming for falls prevention exercise is indeed a hot topic. There can be many barriers - technology, for starters. Gaming systems usually require expensive equipment and a certain know-how just in order to get going. Then there's the monitoring, adherence, and finally, the small matter of the evidence base. But, just think what we could achieve in the way of home-based falls prevention exercise if we could solve these problems and provide a cheap and easy-to-install system.

Thanks to Neuroscience Research Australia (NeurA) we may not have to think about it for much longer. The team has devised a series of low-cost computerised balance training activities, all designed with enjoyment and long-term participation at the heart. They include the SureStep stepping-based exercise program using a dance mat linked to a home television, the Standing Tall home-based exercise program using an Apple iPad app, and the iStoppFalls exercise program also using a television.

Results from two pilot trials have shown that step training can be safely undertaken at home to improve key physical and mental parameters of fall risk in older people. But, rather than stopping there, the team has gone on to develop new step training games modified from engaging video games traditionally played with the hands while seated - Tetris, Pacman, Word Scramble, Bejewelled, Pong and Space Invaders are just a few - and if they prove to be anywhere near as addictive as the original Tetris, we will certainly have a falls prevention revolution on our hands!

The next phase of the project is to conduct a randomised controlled trial over the next three years to determine the effects of a home-based step training program on fall risk in older people.

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