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New Tech To Predict When Older Australians Will Fall

Falls are one of the biggest challenges facing Australia’s ageing population, with one in three people over the age of 65 taking a tumble each year.

“Falls are more than just a simple injury, they can be a death sentence,” Professor Peter Schofield AO told the crowd at the launch of an app that can predict falls with 75 per cent accuracy.

FallScreen+ tests elderly Australians on their mental and physical impairments, ultimately tracking their risk of tripping.

Using data that’s been collected over 30 years from more than 20,000 people, the app flags potential problems, which are then given to clinicians for intervention treatment plans.

“With these tests combined together, we can predict falls one year ahead,” NeuRA Researcher, Associate Professor Kim Delbaere said.

“It is really helpful for them where they could make some improvements to their health, whether that be going to the optometrist or doing some balance exercises with a physiotherapist.”

fall app
Photo: 10 News First.older

One in three older Australians fall each year. About half of them are likely to fall again, and a quarter will suffer substantial injuries.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard says the public health system has 27,000 emergency department presentations annually from falls alone.

“The fall is often the start of a much bigger fall,” Hazzard said explaining how he watched his family member deteriorate both physically and mentally following one of these accidents.

“I think all of us would know somebody who’s had a fall and seen how that has been the start of a decline, unable to get out of the house."

Research shows social isolation occurs in two thirds of those who fell, with many avoiding the activities they love and therefore suffering from further physical de-conditioning.

Even more scary is the news that approximately 30 percent of people who break their hip in a fall will die within 12 months -- a fear older Australians know all too well.

About 30 percent of older Australians who break a hip will die within 12 months. Photo: Getty.

Pam Stevens, 70, has both osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and says falling “frightens the hell” out of her.

"My rheumatologist has often said it's amazing I haven't broken any bones, so falling does worry me,” she said.

“Elderly people that have falls often pass away.”

She, along with many others, are welcoming the technology, but not everyone has access to it yet.

It will be trialled on the 300 residents at the Mark Moran Group’s Lifestyle villages in the Sydney suburbs of Vaucluse and Little Bay.

“It’s benefiting not simply our members and residents… we can develop it, it can evolve into an app that all Australians over 65 can use,” Mark Moran said.

“In order to celebrate life, you need to maintain wellness, to maintain wellness you have to be aware of what can happen in any situation.”

Contact the author: kpratt@networkten.com.au