Booby-trapped obstacle course trains older people not to fall

A quarter of older adults who break their hip die within a year. Alice Klein went to try out an obstacle course designed to help them stay on their feet

My foot slips on a loose tile and for a split-second I’m flailing in mid-air, but then I feel a comforting tug as my harness pulls me upright. I’m at the falls prevention lab in Sydney, where a first-of-its-kind obstacle course has been designed to make seniors fall over – and then instinctively learn how not to.

One-third of people over the age of 65 fall every year, often as a result of poorer eyesight, weaker muscles or dizziness caused by illness or medication. When older people fall, they are more likely to break bones, setting off a train of health problems – a quarter of adults aged 69 or older who fracture their hip die within a year.

Training to prevent this usually involves balance exercises, such as practising standing on one leg. But these don’t