Falls are a major public health concern that directly affects millions of elderly Europeans, the healthcare system, and the adult children and caregivers of older people. The V-TIME approach combines cutting edge technology with emerging concepts from gerontology, neuroscience and rehabilitation to reduce fall risk in a unique way. The V-TIME multi-modal intervention consists of treadmill training (TT) that promotes walking abilities and physical fitness. A key novel addition is the simultaneous use of a virtual reality (VR) environment that challenges, implicitly teaches and enhances cognitive skills that facilitate the safe execution of many activities of daily living: visual scanning, planning, dual tasking abilities, and obstacle negotiation.
Exciting pilot studies support the idea that TT augmented with VR (TT+VR) addresses the limitations of existing fall prevention interventions. Via TT+VR, V-TIME offers task-specific training in a motivating and safe environment that can readily be reproduced and standardized. The major goal of the current proposal is to establish the beneficial effects of V-TIME training in a large (n=300) and diverse group of elderly via a multi-centre, prospective randomized controlled trial. Outcomes include post-training 6 month fall incidence rates (the primary outcome), gait, physical activity (e.g. steps walked in 7 days), cognitive function, quality of life, and neuroimaging measures (fNIRS, fMRI). The effects of dosing and an extension phase will be examined (n=60). The consortium brings together world leaders in ageing, neuroscience, rehabilitation and VR technology to test a new therapy that may dramatically reduce the negative costs of falls, financial and other. The RCT is designed to show that V-TIME offers a significant and clinically relevant greater benefit compared to current clinical management; to probe brain plasticity; and to establish efficacy on fall risk, mobility, cognitive function, and functional independence.
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