Ohio Wesleyan Students Explore Factors Influencing Fall Risk for Local Senior Citizens
OWU Connection Experience: Mentored research, “Relationship Between Physical Function and Cognition with Fall-Risk of Individuals within a Retirement Community,” culminating in a poster presentation at the 2023 Ohio Public Health Association Conference held April 24-26 in Lewis Center, Ohio
Hall, Przybys, Caroline Langley ’24 of Sebastopol, California, and Ella Cressy ’23 of Canal Winchester, Ohio, (who graduated in December) conducted the research throughout the academic year.
In layman’s terms, Przybys says, “The project entailed looking at the physical and cognitive function of elderly individuals in relation to fall risk.” The students conducted their research in collaboration with residents at Delaware’s Willow Brook Christian Village and Willow Brook at Delaware Run.
Hall adds: “This project entailed four tests. The tests included the National Council of Aging’s Fall-Risk Questionnaire, grip strength, the timed up and go, and the mini-cog. The fall-risk questionnaire was used to place the participants into fall-risk categories (high, normal). Grip strength and the timed up and go were used to quantify physical function and the mini-cog was used to assess cognitive function.”
The students were mentored by faculty members Andrew Busch, Ed.D., associate professor and department chair of Health and Human Kinetics (HHK), and Christopher Modica, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychology. Liz Nix, Ph.D., assistant professor of Nutrition, and Rosemary Riley, Ph.D., part-time instructor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, also collaborated on the project.
Hall: “I chose this project because I am passionate about the health field and preventative care in particular. With fall prevention, preventative care is crucial to helping falls be avoided. This project aligns with my future plans as I want to go into health policy and pushing for more and equitable access to preventative care is the main avenue in health policy that I want to pursue.”
Przybys: “I chose this research experience because I have dealt with my grandmother, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. She has had a tremendous time battling the side effects of Parkinson’s, and this research allowed me to understand better what is possibly factoring into her health. … This research ties into my future career plans because, as a future physician, I want to take a public health approach when working with patients. With this experience, I will be able to understand better different risks and factors contributing to fall risk as my patients age.”
Hall: “My favorite part of this experience was going back to the Willow Brook facilities (where we conducted the research) to debrief the participants of our findings. While we were actively conducting the study, the participants were curious as to what we were finding and wanted to hear our final results once we had them. I had the pleasure of presenting the results to them alongside Dr. Busch and Dr. Riley. This was fulfilling because the participants were very interested in learning how they could apply our results to lessen their risk for falling.”
Przybys: “My favorite moment was being able to meet with the elderly patients and talk to them about what we are studying. I learned from this experience many things, including how important personal health is, how to conduct and evaluate research, and how to present/conduct research as a freshman student.”
Hall: “What we learned was that the timed up-and-go test and fall-risk category (high, normal fall risk) were significantly related to one another. For example, knowing that one is in the high fall-risk category allows for medium confidence in predicting that they will fail the timed up-and-go test. Also, we found that BMI contributed to one’s likelihood of failing the timed up-and-go. When the data was adjusted for BMI, participants who had a higher BMI, had a 4.83 times increased odds of failing the timed up and go which then translates to having a higher risk of falling.”
Why Ohio Wesleyan?
Hall: “I transferred to OWU as they offered generous financial aid to transfer students and because of the opportunities and academic success I thought that I could have with the HHK department/program.”
Przybys: “I chose to attend OWU for this exact reason, the fact that I have been able to be so involved with scientific research is outstanding, and I am really excited for my future at OWU and all the more I can do. OWU was clearly the right place because of all of the opportunities and research experiences.”
Plans After Graduation
Hall: “I am planning to take a gap year and then go onto law school to pursue a career in health policy. OWU has given me all of the skills and the assets that I may need entering into my career.”
Przybys: “My plan after OWU is to attend medical school. OWU is helping me reach that goal by providing countless experiences that will help strengthen my application for a doctorate in medical studies.”