Dr Susan Dewhurst is Head of Department and Principal Academic in Exercise Physiology in the Department of Rehabilitation and Sport Sciences. Having previously worked as a lecturer and researcher in academic institutions in Scotland, NW England, Denmark and Rome, and as a Senior Scientific Officer at the Ministry of Defence, she brings a broad range of teaching and scientific experiences to BU.
My main pleasure is seeing people of all ages active. This is especially true for the older age group whereby being active lets us engage with society and allows us to make the most of our latter years.
For many older people, however, being active isn’t so easy. The natural ageing process makes us more susceptible to slips and falls. When this happens confidence in our physical ability can go, along with the desire to participate in activities which we once enjoyed, whether it be visits to shopping centres or country walks. A consequence of avoiding these activities is that our physical abilities can decrease, ironically, making us more likely to fall.
My main research goal is to try to break this downward spiral that can occur as we start to become less steady on our feet. This interest includes understanding how our body responds to the physical environment around us and what interventions can be put in place to help overcome these challenges.
Examples of ongoing projects include investigating what we look at when we walk in different outdoor environments. We know that as we age, we tend to focus more on potential hazards such as a passing car or a person cutting across our paths. We found, however, that this narrowed focus makes us less stable and therefore more likely to fall.
While this type of study helps us build a bigger picture of the changes that occur in the body, I am also extremely excited to be working on a community-based project to increase accessibility to fall prevention screening and interventions. This project is targeting any adult who would like early interventions to maintain or improve their balance. This project is in its early stages, however we are optimistic for a fruitful few years ahead.