More than 280 people had their balance tested on the Balance Mat at the annual Council on the Ageing ACT (COTA ACT) Seniors Expo in Canberra.
Balance Mat General Manager Ian Bergman, said, “At last year’s Seniors Expo we showcased an early prototype – what we were then calling a Sway Test Sensor Mat.
“Today I am delighted to announce that we now have a fully fledged, patented product – the Balance Mat – and that it is working perfectly. Any lingering doubts we may have had about our product’s performance simply fell away during the Seniors Expo last Thursday. Our new Balance Mat product has passed every test we set for it with flying colours,” Mr Bergman said.
Almost 85% of the 280 people who had their balance tested on the day (235 out of 280 or 84%) had good balance, registering a balance measurement score of 0.2 or below.
A great many were in their 70s, 80s and 90s. One was Noel Semple (pictured on left), who received a score of 0.0 – indicating he has perfect balance despite the grand old age of 96.
Another person with a perfect balance score of 0.0 was local politician, Gordon Ramsay, MLA (pictured on mat while Balance Mat associate Nick Weber checks the score). Mr Ramsay was attending in his capacity as the ACT Government’s Minister for Veterans and Seniors.
Nine people registered a score of 2.0 or above, suggesting they had poor balance. Of those, four received a score of 5.0 or above, indicating a possible health issue that could be due to any number of conditions such as an inner ear problem, a neurological condition or a disease such as Parkinson’s or Meniere’s.
The way the Balance Mat works in a real-world setting is that a healthcare provider who observed such a high score would immediately move into falls risk assessment mode.
Mr Bergman said, “Our overall vision is to improve and maintain older people’s health by aiding in the diagnosis of medical conditions, promoting better health and wellbeing, and preventing injuries and deaths from falls.
“Having this breakthrough product available to healthcare providers will make it so much simpler for them to fulfill their duty of care obligations to older clients, whether they are ‘ageing in place’ in their own homes, admitted to or about to leave hospital, or living in aged care facilities. Healthcare providers will be able to triage those clients with concerning scores on the Balance Mat into appropriate falls prevention activities or medical treatment and do their bit to address the current preventable falls crisis across Australia.”
The Balance Mat is already being used in residential aged care facilities in Canberra, Adelaide and the Gold Coast to monitor residents’ balance.
“Our product will give healthcare providers enormous confidence in predicting who may be at risk of falling, since we know that poor balance is correlated with the majority of falls in older people,” Mr Bergman said.
Many groups in the Australian AgeWell community run healthy living activities as a means of encouraging older people to live longer, happier and fitter lives.
With funding from the South Australian Government and the IRT Group, the Balance Mat is currently being used by COTA SA and the ACT Chinese Australian Association to monitor older people’s balance over time during fitness exercise programs.