UST College of Rehabilitation Sciences faculty member and researcher Dr. Donald Lipardo received the Gelia Castillo Award for Research on Social Innovations in Health (GCARSIH).
GCARSIH, which recognizes the outstanding social innovations that address persistent societal and health systems challenges in the Philippines, highlighted Lipardo’s study “Falls prevention through physical and cognitive training (Falls PACT) in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.”
Lipardo, who is a geriatric rehabilitation researcher, explained that the geriatric population, especially those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), is susceptible to falling. Possible consequences of falling can include physical injuries, a minor bruise or a major bone fracture, or even death for older persons.
The aging process also involves changes in bodily and physical functions such as blurring of vision, decrease in muscle strength, a decline in reaction time, problems in standing balance, and slowness in walking. The likelihood of this unfortunate circumstance is why Falls PACT and other preventative measures to keep older adults safe are so necessary.
According to Lipardo, Falls PACT combines cognitive training elements into a series of exercises that address and target declines in physical and cognitive functions in the geriatric population.
It involves walking in various directions with executive training by sorting common daily objects; sit-to-stand exercises with orientation training by answering questions about dates, occasions, locations, and answering simple math questions; heel and toe raises with attention training by performing the exercise based on visual cues; stepping in different directions with memory training by stepping on a sequence of numbers written on the floor; step-up exercises with attention training; and graded reaching routines with executive training by transferring objects from one side of a long table to another side, and forming patterns, explained Lipardo in an email interview.
The said study was the final phase of his Ph.D. research project, which he completed in 2019 for his Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Medicine degree from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Lipardo emphasized that “Aside from the increased blood flow to the muscles and to our brain when we exercise, incorporating Cognitive Training in Physical Therapy leads to better neural efficiency. This means that tasks are completed/accomplished with less resources from our nerve cells after undergoing combined physical and cognitive training. That is the main reason why bodily functions are improved with PACT.”
Proposing PACT to all older adults in general, Lipardo said that it is recommended even to those who have no cognitive impairment.
“It could proactively engage our dear senior citizens in the fun and challenging activities of the program that would maintain and/or improve their current physical and mental abilities,” he added.
The GCARSIH finalists, aside from receiving a monetary prize, will be invited to attend a training package for research and innovation designed to improve further and scale the chosen innovations.
“This was actually the main reason why I applied for the award. The training that will be provided will help me and my team to implement the program in other areas of the country. I hope that more seniors in our country will be able to receive the program’s positive effects. But of course, we need to look for agencies who would fund this project and possible collaborators in the regions,” Lipardo explained.
After the training package, the new GCARSIH finalist hopes to continue developing exercise programs for the geriatric population.
“I am currently working on designing an exercise program based on Arnis, the Philippines’ national martial arts, focusing on improving the balance control of older adults. I hope that it could become a popular exercise routine among our senior citizens similar to Tai Chi in other Asian countries,” said Lipardo.
A licensed physical therapist for 21 years, Lipardo is known for advancing the care for the geriatric population. He was named the Outstanding Professional in Physical Therapy by the Professional Regulation Commission in 2015. His Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy and Master of Science in Physical Therapy degrees were both obtained from the University of Santo Tomas.