Otago is a home-based, patient-centered strength and balance-training program for older adults to prevent falls. The exercises are individually prescribed by a physical therapist and include a set of leg muscle strengthening and balance retraining movements and a walking plan. The exercises increase in difficulty during a series of home visits by a trained community health worker.
Each participant receives a booklet with instructions for each exercise prescribed and ankle cuff weights for resistance when doing the strengthening exercises. The exercises take about 30 minutes to complete. Participants exercise three times a week and go for a walk at least twice a week.
To help older adults adhere to the program, participants keep a record of the days they complete the program and the community health worker telephones them on a monthly basis between home visits recommended every six months.
The Otago exercise program was developed and tested in four controlled trials by a research team at the University of Otago Medical School, New Zealand, led by Professor John Campbell. The program was evaluated in both research and routine health care services with 1,016 people aged 65 to 97 living at home.
This program has been effective in reducing by 35% both the number of falls and the number of injuries resulting from falls. It improved participants’ strength and balance and maintained their confidence in carrying out everyday activities without falling. Also, it prevented fall injuries especially in high-risk groups: those over 80 years of age and those with a previous fall. Learn more
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