Approximately 15 million older adults fall every year in the United States and fall prevention programs have only been moderately successful in arresting fall rates. This proposal uses motor learning principles derived from the attentional focus literature to determine whether training someone where to focus their attention during a balance task enhances balance control and reduces fall risk. Older adults (N=90) who are classified as fallers (one or more falls in the past 12 months) will be recruited. A series of balance control, clinical metrics of fall risk, and patient-reported outcomes will be assessed prior, during, and after a 12-week intervention to examine changes in performance and fall risk. The 12-week intervention will emphasize directing the participants? attention either internally or externally during a series of balance tasks. Empirical evidence and our preliminary data leads us to hypothesize that an external focus of attention training will positively influence balance control. This will be the first study to will examine balance control changes over 12-week balance intervention using an attentional focus paradigm and we will relate the balance control changes to clinical metrics that indicate fall risk and patient- reported outcomes. Further, our proposal includes a novel model of entropy in postural sway, a metric that has been proposed to relate to balance ability, to help explain the hypothesized enhancement in balance. Thus, this proposal will merge motor learning principles with a 12-week balance intervention to determine if fall risk is reduced in older adults.
Specific Aim 1 compares balance performance within each trial/session throughout the 12 weeks of balance training to evaluate whether the attentional focus groups (external vs. internal) differ in their motor learning trajectory with respect to the balance task.
Specific Aim 2 compares the motor ability outcome measures that relate to fall-risk between the groups (external focus, internal focus, or control) before, during, and after the 12-week balance intervention.
Specific Aim 3 compares the patient-reported outcome measures of fear of falling, functional health and well-being, and fear of injury from movement between the groups (external focus, internal focus, or control) before, during, and after the 12-week balance intervention.
Decreasing fall risk remains a priority with an older adult population. Fall prevalence remains high; approximately 15 million older adults? experience falls each year. The proposed 12-week balance training intervention was created from principles derived from the last 15 years of motor control research in order to develop an evidence- based intervention aimed at curbing fall rates in older adults.