School of Sport and Service Management sport and exercise science students are visiting a care home to help tackle one of the most serious health issues facing older people – falls.
Every year, one third of older people fall and in London alone these account for a tenth of ambulance call outs. Falls result in injuries, some serious and occasionally fatal, and besides the misery caused, they result in a £2 billion financial burden to the NHS.
The students, Sophie Thomas and Megan Groombridge, studying Sport and Exercise Science BSc(Hons) at the University’s Eastbourne campus, are visiting St Margaret’s Care Home in Eastbourne with their exercise programme ‘Fitness Fights Falls’ which improves strength and balance.
Sophie said: “Our lecturer Robert Harley mentioned the opportunity to set up a falls prevention programme in one of our first year lectures. We started to realise the magnitude of the problem and this inspired us to apply for a grant and apply our knowledge from our degree into a real life setting with the potential to better our local community.”
Grants are awarded by the School of Sport and Service Management to students involved in work that promotes excellence and supports the community. Sophie and Megan were awarded £2,500.
They sent out questionnaires to all 28 care homes in Eastbourne which revealed a need for stability fitness programmes.
The two completed a course to qualify as Postural Stability Instructors and are now using their programme as part of their dissertations. The student’s exercise course to qualify as Postural Stability Instructors was funded by the University and run by Later Life Training which provides specialist, evidence-based, training for health and exercise professionals working with older people, frailer older people and stroke survivors.
The one-hour fitness classes, twice a week, have proved so popular at St Margaret’s that more residents are joining in. Megan said: “We would love to offer this to more care homes because we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact it’s had on the residents, but this is not manageable yet with the workload from our studies.”
Sophie said: “The project has helped put into practice ideas and theories we cover at University. I can honestly say I will never forget these residents and have grown so fond of them and all their individual ways and humours. It has been a privilege to observe improvements in every single resident throughout the weeks and to know that we have positively impacted on their lives.”
Megan said: “The best thing about being part of this project is being able to give back to the community and do something that I am passionate about, and for that I feel very fortunate. It’s been an amazing experience through which I’ve learnt so much, not just education wise but also about myself, as my confidence in working with vulnerable people has greatly increased. Teaching these residents has been an absolute pleasure as they never fail to put a smile on my face and it’s been so rewarding to see the improvements they have made.”
The students have been helped by Louisa Beale, Senior Lecturer, and Peter Watt, Associate Professor, both in the School of Sport and Service Management.
After graduating, both students plan to take an MSc in Rehabilitation Science before taking up careers as physiotherapists. But they also hope: “More students can find or create opportunities like this for themselves and to get involved in projects similar to this – for us, this has been one of the best things about coming to the University of Brighton.”