Noela was in her garage when she took a tumble off a ladder. She’d missed the bottom step and slammed into a wall, hurting her legs and shattering her confidence.
Months later, the 76-year-old from Moonee Ponds started seeing VU’s Dr Hanatsu Nagano, a postdoctoral research fellow in biomechanics who has developed unique insoles to help reduce falls in the elderly.
Insoles reduce falls
Over a six-month trial, Dr Nagano found nearly 40 elderly people wearing the insoles did not fall at all, and only one of 12 insole-wearing hospital patients suffered a fall over a four-month period compared to three falls for a control group of a similar size who were not wearing them.
The insoles are designed with a series of raised bumps that follow a foot’s ideal centre of pressure to help with side-to-side balance, plus a shock-absorbing contoured heel, and a forefront that increases minimum toe clearance – the reason for many trips and falls.
Campaign highlights Dr Nagano’s work
Last year, Universities Australia asked tertiary institutions around the country to nominate candidates to take part in #UNIRESEARCHCHANGESLIVES, a new campaign, focusing on the work of Australian researchers.
After a lengthy selection process, UA chose to highlight Dr Nagano’s work and sent a film crew from Sydney to make a short video demonstrating how his research continues to transform the lives of Australians, and people around the world.
“I was honoured to take part in UA’s new program. I have dedicated much of my professional life to working on research that makes a difference to people’s lives and contributes to solving a huge issue that impacts the elderly community. Both my grandparents suffered debilitating falls, so I understand both the physical and emotional toll these falls have on the elderly.”
Dr Nagano is thankful for the support of VU’s Professor Rezaul Begg (Group Leader - Gait and Intelligent Technology; Institute for Health and Sport, IHES) and Professor Michael J. McKenna (Executive Director, IHES). “Rezaul has been instrumental – he has supervised my research from honours, right through to my PhD, while Mike has also supported the insole project from the beginning.”
And Noela from Moonee Ponds? “I’m feeling very stable when I walk in the insoles. I feel like I’ve got a better grip."