Feeling and falling : an exploration of the role of proprioception in falls among older adults

  • Susan Antcliff

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

    Abstract

    With the rapid growth of older age cohorts, particularly in developed countries with long life expectancies, and the increased incidence of injurious falls with advancing age, the development of screening tools to identify those at greater risk and put in place mitigation strategies potentially has major benefits for both individuals and the community at large. The body of research for this dissertation was concerned with proprioception and falls risk, specifically using active movement extent discrimination assessment to measure proprioceptive skill in an older population and examine any linkages between skill in the somatosensory domain and falls incidence. In light of concerns around the reliability of the existing testing protocol used with the Active Measurement Extent Discrimination Assessment (AMEDA) apparatus at an individual level, a prerequisite for the research was to develop a testing protocol that could be used with the target population. The centrepiece of the research was a longitudinal study that not only recorded the occurrence of falls, but also their characteristics, together with periodic testing of a range of skills directly or indirectly related to proprioception. While this research needs to be treated as exploratory given the relatively small number of participants, it provides evidence of the importance of considering falls among those aged over 60 years as a heterogeneous phenomenon. It also points to the potential for using the AMEDA device to identify those at risk of the most serious type of falls. There is scope for further refinement of the testing protocol and the scoring metric used, both through enhancement of the apparatus itself and through wider testing to develop a better understanding of how performance varies within a broader cross-section of the population over time.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJeremy Witchalls (Supervisor), Marijke Welvaert (Supervisor) & Gordon Waddington (Supervisor)

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