Manchester researchers develop computer games to prevent falls in the elderly
A team from Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS
Foundation Trust (CMFT) and The University of Manchester have
developed new computer games in collaboration with MIRA Rehab
Limited and tested by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust's Falls
Prevention Team and its patients, designed to significantly reduce
the likelihood of falls at home and in the community among older
One third of people over 65 will suffer a fall and this rate
rises to one half of people over the age of 85. Falls frequently
lead to severe injuries that result in the need to live in care
homes and can even be fatal. The issue is expected to have an ever
increasing impact as the UK's population ages and represents a
significant cost to the NHS, at more
than £2.3 billion every year*.
Research has shown that engaging in certain physical exercises
can prevent falls by at least 40%**, but many older people find it
difficult to maintain sufficient activity levels.
To increase older people's compliance with prescribed exercise,
Manchester researchers have now developed a series of computer
games called Exergames that make staying active more engaging for
The Exergames run on MIRA Rehab's MIRA software platform and are
played using a Microsoft Kinect sensor to monitor body movements.
They can be programmed by clinicians to be tailored to the
individual's levels of ability, taking into account fatigue, pain
and fear of falling. The MIRA software, which includes activities
such as squatting to control the movement of objects on a TV or
computer screen, logs the duration of gameplay, how frequently it
is used, and provides reports to clinicians on patients'
"We spoke to a lot of older people and physiotherapists before
creating the games because it was really important that what we
produced was easy to use and made keeping fit as fun as possible
for the target audience. Many individuals over the age of 65
haven't played computer games before, but those who have been
helping us test the technology have given us very positive
feedback," Dr Emma Stanmore, Lecturer in Nursing at The University
of Manchester, explained.
"Currently, our focus groups have been using the technology
within, Trafford Community Services but it's a very cost-effective
device for the NHS so we hope that if the Exergames are rolled out
across the UK patients will be able to take it home and play it
with their grandchildren," Dr Jay Chillala, Consultant in Elderly
Health at the Trafford Division of CMFT, added.
Debra Maloney, Trafford Intermediate Care Team Leader at Pennine
Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Physiotherapists from our
outpatient rehabilitation team have been helping to develop
Exergames by advising on the exercises included in the programme
and some patients from one of our exercise groups have played a
valuable role by giving feedback on demo versions of the games.
"It's been fantastic to be part of a project that really is at
the cutting edge of falls prevention and will make a huge
difference to older people."
The Exergames currently include three games and four exercises
such as leg lifts and squats. The first phase of development and
testing was funded by CMFT Charitable Funds for Innovation and The
University of Manchester. The project was supported by Manchester
Integrating Medicine & Innovative Technology (MIMIT) and
*Figures from NICE: Falls: assessment and prevention of falls in
**Barnett A, Smith B, Lord S, Williams M, Baumand A.
Community-based group exercise improves balance and reduces falls
in at-risk older people: A randomized controlled trial. Age and
Ageing. 2003 Jul;32(4):407-14.