The geriatric population has often been the subject of research by Assoc. Prof. Donald S. Lipardo, Ph.D., a faculty member of the UST College of Rehabilitation Sciences. Among the elderly, he explains that falling is a common accident that leads from minor to major physical injuries, or even death. The aging process which involves factors like blurring vision, decreasing muscle strength, declining reaction times, problems with standing balance, and decreasing walking speed can put older adults at risk of falling. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) can also predispose them to fall, explained Lipardo in an online interview.
This study on the risk of falling among the elderly was presented during the 11th Metro Manila Health Research and Development Consortium Annual Scientific Conference (MMHRDC) held on October 21, 2020.
“[The study] was conducted to look into the possibility that older persons with MCI are more vulnerable to experience fall because the bodily and physical risks of falling are more prominently seen among them compared to other older persons with normal cognitive function,” Lipardo explained.
Garnering third place in the Oral Research Presentation Competition for his work which was titled “Physiological and physical risks of falling in community-dwelling older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment: A cross sectional study”, Lipardo explained how this went.
His team was able to find 230 older adults who consented to participate in the study, and from this group it was found that those with decreased cognitive function, even if it was just a mild form, were possibly at greater risk of falling because some of their bodily functions such as visual sensitivity, reaction time, control of balance in standing were significantly lower compared to their peers with normal cognitive ability.
“This means that we need to be more proactive by keeping these body functions optimal among older persons, particularly those with cognitive problems, to minimize their risk of falling and prevent them from incurring a fall,” recommended Lipardo.
Noting that the geriatric population is one of the sectors that has been greatly affected by the lockdown due to the pandemic, Lipardo stressed the importance of remaining physically active even when one is simply at home.
“To improve their standing balance and leg muscle strength, [older adults] can do a series of exercises near a stable chair or table such as marching-in-place, partial squats, lunges, heel, and toe raises, stepping forward/backward/sideward, sit-to-stand for about 20-30 minutes per day for three times a week. It could be done with family members around so that it could also be a fun family-bonding session,” he said.
Currently a researcher for the UST Center for Health Research and Movement Science (CHRMS), Lipardo has been a licensed physical therapist for the past 21 years. In the last decade of researching with his students and interns where they recruit older adults as participants, he noticed that senior citizens have not been given enough attention on how they can experience a more active and healthy journey in life as they age. It was this realization that prompted him to decide to be in the field of Geriatric Rehabilitation, a relatively new field of specialization in Physical Therapy.