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The Otago Program

The Otago Exercise Program (Otago) is an individually-tailored balance and strength fall prevention program that is delivered by a physical therapist over the course of 52 weeks. This program entails that physical therapists have a minimum of seven visits with a patient to assess, prescribe, and monitor progress as well as monthly phone calls when there is not a visit over the course of one year.  

Otago includes a series of 17 strength and balance exercises that reduces falls between 35% and 40% for frail older adults.  The program also includes a walking program.

Who Can Benefit From Otago?

Evidence shows that Otago is most effective in reducing falls among persons 80 years of age and older with a history of falls in the previous year. In clinical practice, the physical therapist should determine if others would also benefit from this program.

  • Otago is most effective for older adults who have fallen and who have moderate to severe decreased strength and balance due to multiple risk factors, such as arthritis, de-conditioning, and inactivity. Participants should be living in the community and able to walk in their own home with or without a walking aid.

  • Older adults who are less than 80 years of age and who are falling, as well as adults who are too frail to do standing exercises may require a more individualized physical therapy program.

  • Older adults with mild strength and balance deficits may need a more challenging program than those in Otago and may benefit from other evidence-based fall prevention programs such as Tai chi: Moving for Better Balance. 

  • Older adults who fall due to syncope, vertigo, severely impaired vision, some neurologic conditions, or who have significant cognitive impairment may not benefit from Otago. These older adults should be referred to their primary health care provider who can prescribe treatment or refer them to appropriate specialists.

Who Leads an Otago Class?

Otago was designed for delivery by a physical therapist and/or a physical therapy assistant. An online training course is available that includes the research evidence and rationale for the program, and gives clear guidelines for delivery, including how to conduct and prescribe each exercise. 

Establish Otago in your Community

We are here to make setting up the Otago Exercise Program at your organization a very straight-forward process.  Through the grant, we have several resources available.  

If you do not have a trained leader at your organization, we may be able to make arrangements to provide them for you.