Brief training of gait and posture using a wearable sensory feedback device with older adults who have fears of falling: A feasibility study
Wearable sensory-feedback technology has been shown to improve walking in individuals with neurological conditions. This study examined the feasibility and acceptability of procedures to use this technology with older adults who have fear of falling. Recruitment, retention, measurement, and intervention procedures were assessed in a single-center, pre-post, within-subject design study. Older adults with fear of falling were recruited to use wearable sensory feedback technology during a single session conducted in a laboratory setting under the supervision of a physical therapist. Objective measures consisted of gait and posture measures that were made at three time-points during the study session: "baseline," "during" (after training, while wearing the device), and "post" (after the second assessment following removal of the device). Participants ended the session by reporting on their perceptions of the technology. Twenty-four participants were enrolled over a period of 12 months. All enrolled participants were able to complete the study protocol without adverse or unexpected events. Participants provided favorable feedback indicating that it was easy to find a natural rhythm for walking while using the technology. Small to moderate effect sizes were obtained regarding pre-post increases in cadence and double support time and decreases in single limb stance time. Overall, intervention procedures were found to be feasible and acceptable but preliminary data did not point to improvements in gait or balance, i.e., the direction of the effects suggested of pre-post worsening of gait. Areas for improvement were identified that may inform the design and execution of future studies with this patient population.