A new app has been developed to help reduce the risk of falls in the elderly during lockdown. KOKU has been designed at the University of Manchester and it’s hoped it will help prevent physical decline in older people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
KOKU is an abbreviation of Keep-On-Keep-Up and aims to cut the number of injuries suffered by falls in the over-65s. It is estimated that around a third of over-65s have a fall at least once a year and this increases to half in the over-80s.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), falls are the leading cause of accidental death in older people, but they are preventable. A number of studies have found they can be reduced by as much as 42 per cent through exercises to improve strength and balance.
The problem is that exercise in this demographic is generally low without the assistance of a therapist and during lockdown, working with one is almost impossible. Up until now, digital resources have had little engagement and no way of tracking progress.
KOKU provides users with an in-app trainer called Wilf, who helps guide them through personalised strength and balance exercises. This is coupled with health literacy games to encourage awareness of home safety issues, hydration and good nutrition for bone health, reports About Manchester.
Dr Emma Stanmore, principal investigator at The Healthy Ageing Research Group at The University of Manchester, told the news provider: “COVID-19 has confined many of the 12 million older adults aged 65 and above in the UK to their homes for a long period of time.
“Because many are already housebound and frail, they may have already been at risk of decline. This increased sedentary behaviour can lead to impaired mobility, muscle deconditioning and poor balance which can increase falls and have a negative impact on physical and mental health.”
More elderly people have turned to technology during lockdown, with a surge in internet use and video calling among the over-65s. While this has predominantly been used to keep in touch with loved ones, the older generation are now using it for internet banking, shopping and other tasks.
Dr Stanmore added: “It’s particularly relevant for older adults concerned about their risk of physical decline and wanting to remain independent at home. But it’s also helpful for care home staff looking for interactive ways to engage older residents with simple [exercises], or people concerned about ageing relatives or friends who may be at risk of falls or frailty.”
Staying active during lockdown is a challenge for everyone, but it can be particularly difficult for those who are already vulnerable. When getting outside to walk around is discouraged, a lack of space and motivation can compound already present health issues.