Helping to break the fall
A former Windsorite and exercise researcher is pairing up his interests in aging and video games to find a way to improve balance and prevent falls among seniors.
Daniel Goble, who grew up in Woodslee and studied human kinetics and biomechanics at the University of Windsor, now specializes in motor neuroscience research at San Diego State University in California.
Goble’s interest in aging and fall prevention led him to study proprioception – a person’s sense of where their body is in space in the absence of vision – using Nintendo Wii balance boards and games.
The research could one day help reduce the likelihood of serious injuries and death from falls, especially among seniors.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, falls account for more than half the injuries among Canadians over age 65. One-fifth of injury-related deaths in this age group can be traced back to a fall. PHAC estimates these injuries cost the country’s health care system $2 billion each year, to say nothing of the emotional and physical cost to the individual who suffers a fall.
In the Windsor-Sarnia region in 2010-2011, almost half the reported falls occurred in people over age 65 and there were more than 5,500 visits to the emergency room as a result of them.
“This sense of proprioception really is important for preventing falls,” Goble said, adding that falling – unlike major diseases such as cancer – is perhaps the most preventable cause of death among older people.
A lot of the existing research on why seniors fall focuses on coordination, vision and muscle strength, he said, but proprioception – which is kind of like a sixth sense – is also a part of the puzzle.
“If you’re sitting down right now and you can’t see your foot, you could still probably tell me: is your foot pointing forward, is it pointing to the side, is it curled over, are you tapping it,” he said. “That’s your sense of proprioception.”