Falls are a serious problem affecting a third of people aged 65 and over every year, and are the biggest cause of accidental death for older people, costing the NHS over £2 billion a year.
The effects of a fall go beyond the person who falls and can have negative economic and emotional impacts on the whole family. A fall can result in a loss of confidence and social isolation as well as increasing the family’s worry about the health, safety, and mortality of the older person.
Often, older people feel that falls are unavoidable, but a wealth of evidence from experts across Europe has repeatedly shown that, in most cases, the cause is preventable and the new campaign is intended to get the whole family involved in promoting this message.
GCU is part of ProFouND: the Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination – a European Commission-funded network aiming to provide the best falls prevention and healthy ageing advice to help prevent falls among older people across Europe.
Ahead of International Day of Older Persons on October 1, ageing experts at GCU are leading a ’Stay Strong, Stay Steady’ campaign to raise awareness in younger as well as older people of the key actions that can prevent falls, so that all generations are informed and take action.
GCU Professor Dawn Skelton, Professor of Ageing and Health, is addressing the annual general meeting of ROAR – Reaching Older Adults in Renfrewshire, which creates opportunities for older adults to enhance their quality of life.
Professor Skelton said: “Falls affect so many lives and the injuries and loss of independence they can bring often limit quality of life. That’s why it is so important to maintain activity, as a lot of older people start avoiding activity as their balance gets worse with age and this means their balance deteriorates even faster on the ‘use it or lose it’ basis.”
Professor Skelton organised the recent Sporting Senior Games at GCU, which saw elderly people from Charleston, West Virginia, compete in a series of events against care home residents from throughout Scotland to highlight the need for physical activity to help improve strength and balance in care home residents.
Professor Chris Todd, overall project leader of the ProFouND network based at The University of Manchester, said: “We know from the strong evidence how to prevent falls by targeting risk factors such as poor balance but the issue now is getting the message across to individuals at risk and their families and friends.
“ProFouND is leading a European Falls Prevention Campaign across 12 countries to spread the important message about how falls can best be prevented.”
“We are providing materials on how to run success local campaigns and factsheets on key areas such as bone health and specific exercises so that the most up to date evidence is accessible to all. We have also trained exercise instructors in 35 regions across Europe to promote the benefits of strength and balance exercises for older people to prevent falls.”
Families can get involved by:
- Checking for strength and balance classes in your local area and promoting them to your older relative or friend
- Checking homes for hazards such as rugs, poor lighting and loose cables
- Encouraging annual eyesight and hearing checks
- Requesting a GP or pharmacist to review your relatives or friend’s medication every six months
- Encouraging a diet high in Vitamin D or time outside in natural sunlight to improve bone health (eating oily fish, eggs or take supplements)
- Being active together and encouraging physical activity– playing exercise video-games, gardening or shopping
- Planning family activities and active holidays together
More information about how to effectively prevent falls can be found at www.ProFouND.eu.com