Interactive sessions, including games that are intended to help elderly Parkinson’s patients learn strategies to avoid falling, are well-received, a small Brazilian study suggests.
The study, “Gerontotechnology for fall prevention of the elderly with Parkinson,” was published recently in Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem.
Falling is a major health risk for older people, and Parkinson’s disease (PD) symptoms can increase an individual’s likelihood of falling. One way to promote fall prevention is for older people with PD to be aware of certain strategies that can limit the risk. Often, that requires just being cognizant of limitations and taking things slower than might feel normal.
In the new study, researchers wanted to create a gerontological intervention to help older people with PD learn skills that would help them avoid falling, as well as bolster skills such as memory that can be affected by PD.
Gerontotechnology is defined as “the study of technology and aging that seeks to ensure good health, seeking to meet the needs arising from the aging process,” the researchers wrote.
The intervention consisted of two workshops — lectures and interactive memory games — to help provide information to participants.
Nine older people with PD participated in each of the workshops. The participants raged in age from 68 to 74 years, four were male, five were female, four were married, and five were widowed.
The first workshop lasted about two hours and was divided into two segments: a segment in which participants were exposed to the imminent risks of falls and their correlation with Parkinson’s; and a segment of interaction and socialization through application of the memory game.
The second workshop lasted about 90 minutes and also was divided into two segments: the presentation of some topics in a booklet (developed by the researcher) for fall prevention and Parkinson’s; and memory games that could be played in groups of two or three participants.
After going through the workshops, participants were interviewed in order to ascertain their feelings about it. Overall, responses were positive:
“The experience was very good, the time passed quickly and I learned many tips,” one participant is quoted in the study. Another said, “These things help us, it’s important, I want this little book because for us it’s a document that helps a lot.” Another participant noted “it helped to improve my memory.”
The researchers grouped the responses into categories, to highlight factors that were valuable to participants, namely: “Avoiding and learning not to fall;” “Helping people to pay attention;” “I liked it because it reminds me of my childhood/a different thing;” and “Learning from the game.”
Many participants reported enjoying the feeling of playing a game in order to learn. For instance, one participant said it reminded him/her of playing with his/her children. Other common responses were that the workshops helped emphasize the active steps that need to be taken in order to avoid falling, such as moving more slowly and with more deliberation and care.
Broadly, the researchers described the participants’ responses as being that the intervention improved “self-care, empowerment and knowledge.”
The researchers noted that this is a very small and qualitative study, so further research will be needed to improve similar interventions and to determine their merit.