An innovative exercise programme to help reduce falls in older people in Scotland could save the public purse millions of pounds, research suggests.
The Steady Steps scheme, which has been taking place in Edinburgh, involves weekly sessions to help improve balance and stability among over-65s.
An analysis of the programme, which is run by Edinburgh Leisure, has now revealed that for every £1 invested in the scheme at least £13 is put back into the economy due to factors such as the decreased use of the NHS and allowing people to live more independently.
Steady Steps, which is funded by the Change Innovation Fund, provides a physical activity programme for over-65s who have experienced a fall or are at risk of falling, and are referred by the NHS.
Those attending the scheme, launched in 2012, have reported improvements in their physical strength and balance, but also increased confidence and reduced social isolation.
The weekly sessions are complemented with exercises undertaken at home.
Participants take part in simple exercises such as practising walking on tip toes, on their heels and using large elasticated bands to improve their strength and stability.
An analysis by the organisation Social Return on Investment (SROI) has now concluded the scheme had led to improved health and greater enjoyment of life among those taking part, and significant savings in terms of health and social care costs.
Steady Steps has to date received more than £155,000 in investment.
But according to the SROI analysis, this has amounted to an estimated wider social and economic value of at least £2 million.
A 2013-14 report states the cost of hospital treatment per person for a fall is at least £2,103.
The 2013-14 per person cost of Steady Steps for a 16-week programme to improve balance, confidence and independence is just over £500.
More than 300 older people have attended Steady Steps and demand is so high there is now a waiting list.
Lynne Irons, head of funding at Edinburgh Leisure, said: “Working directly with older adults to help them improve their balance, and their physical and mental wellbeing, we regularly see the profound positive impact Steady Steps has on people’s lives.
“Now we know that not only is there a huge human value to Steady Steps, but a sound economic one.
“Our in-depth evaluation of the changes participants and supporting experts have experienced as a result of Steady Steps clearly reveals a wealth of tangible outcomes, where physical activity offsets needs such as a stay in hospital or home care support.’’
Research with participants found they reported increased ability to carry out daily tasks and other social benefits.