Midstate study finds success in balance vests

For the past four months, residents at Country Meadows Retirement Communities have been participating in a study. On Wednesday, the final assessment was given.

Researchers initially assessed 40 Midstate residents in November. They evaluated their strength, general mobility and walking speed and used those measurements to strategically place weights in a vest. The goal was to improve their balance since, according to the CDC, one in three people over the age of 65 fall every year.

“So, just as you put on eyeglasses to see, they’re putting on the vest to balance,” physical therapist Cynthia Gibson-Horn said.

The vest is a BalanceWear tool. Throughout the study, participants were asked to wear the vest for four hours a day and record their progress in a daily diary.

“They were wearing it four to eight hours, so even though they didn’t have to wear it that long, they wanted to wear it longer than what we had recommended,” said Jennifer Vincenzo, a researcher and physical therapist.

Cynthia and Jennifer returned to Country Meadows to give the final assessment. The statistics still have to be calculated, but according to Jennifer, the preliminary results are promising.

“Just eyeballing it without statistics, it appears that about 75 percent of individuals have shown improvements over four months,” she said.

The residents say they felt improvement almost immediately.

“I usually have a walker or a cane, but the day I put this vest on I started to walk without anything,” said Ron Graham who participated in the study.

While the average age for this study was 85-87 years old, Cynthia says the vests are also being used on younger populations for those with neurological problems. She hopes to study the vests for use in sports.

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