A Digital Health Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults: Feasibility Study

JMIR Form Res. 2021 Dec 23;5(12):e30558. doi: 10.2196/30558.

Abstract

Background: About 1 in 3 adults aged 65 and older falls annually. Exercise interventions are effective in reducing the fall risk and fall rate among older adults. In 2020, startup company Age Bold Inc. disseminated the Bold Fall Prevention Program, aiming to reduce falls among older adults through a remotely delivered, digital exercise program.

Objective: We conducted a feasibility study to assess the delivery of the Bold Fall Prevention Program remotely and evaluate the program's impact on 2 primary outcomes-annualized fall rate and weekly minutes of physical activity (PA)-over 6 months of follow-up.

Methods: Older adults at high risk of falling were screened and recruited for the feasibility study via nationwide digital advertising strategies. Self-reported outcomes were collected via surveys administered at the time of enrollment and after 3 and 6 months. Responses were used to calculate changes in the annualized fall rate and minutes of PA per week.

Results: The remote delivery of a progressive digital fall prevention program and associated research study, including remote recruitment, enrollment, and data collection, was deemed feasible. Participants successfully engaged at home with on-demand video exercise classes, self-assessments, and online surveys. We enrolled 65 participants, of whom 48 (74%) were women, and the average participant age was 72.6 years. Of the 65 participants, 54 (83%) took at least 1 exercise class, 40 (62%) responded to at least 1 follow-up survey at either 3 or 6 months, 20 (31%) responded to both follow-up surveys, and 25 (39%) were lost to follow-up. Among all participants who completed at least 1 follow-up survey, weekly minutes of PA increased by 182% (ratio change=2.82, 95% CI 1.26-6.37, n=35) from baseline and annualized falls per year decreased by 46% (incidence rate ratio [IRR]=0.54, 95% CI 0.32-0.90, n=40). Among only 6-month survey responders (n=31, 48%), weekly minutes of PA increased by 206% (ratio change=3.06, 95% CI 1.43-6.55) from baseline to 6 months (n=30, 46%) and the annualized fall rate decreased by 28% (IRR=0.72, 95% CI 0.42-1.23) from baseline to 6 months.

Conclusions: The Bold Fall Prevention Program provides a feasible strategy to increase PA and reduce the burden of falls among older adults.

Keywords: accidental falls; aging; digital health; elderly; exercise; fall prevention; health strategy; longevity and healthy aging; older adults; program evaluation; technology.