Ageing experts at the University of Manchester are trying to prevent thousands of injuries and save the NHS more than £2billion each year, for International Day of Older Persons today.
The ‘Stay Strong, Stay Steady’ campaign aims 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.
Falls are a serious problem that affect a third of people aged 65 plus every year, and are the biggest cause of accidental death for older people, costing the NHS over £2billion a year.
Dr Emma Stanmore from the UoM believes that everyone has the capacity to help reduce falls.
She said: “We are calling on older and younger people to work together to raise awareness of how to best prevent falls and promote healthy ageing.
“Everyone can help to reduce this preventable and serious problem and the first step is to break the myth that falls are unavoidable.
“With some simple methods such as helping more older people to undertake regular strength and balance exercises, safety checking their homes, or getting an eyesight and medication check, over a million falls could be prevented each year.”
The effects of a fall are said to go beyond the person who falls and can have a negative and emotional impact on the whole family.
A fall can result in a loss of confidence, social isolation as well as increasing the family’s worry about health, safety and mortality of the older person.
The UoM is part of ProFouND: the Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination – a European Commission-funded network.
It aims to provide the best advice to help prevent falls among older people across Europe.
Professor Chris Todd, overall project leader of the ProFouND network, believes that the issue is now getting the message across to people.
He 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.
“We are providing materials on how to run successful 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:
1. Checking for strength and balance classes in your local area and promoting them to your older relative or friend
2. Checking homes for hazards such as rugs, poor lighting and loose cables
3. Encouraging annual eyesight and hearing checks
4. Requesting a GP or pharmacist to review your relatives or friend’s medication every six months
5. Encouraging a diet high in Vitamin D or time outside in natural sunlight to improve bone health (eating oily fish, eggs or take supplements)
6. Being active together and encouraging physical activity – playing exercise video-games, gardening or shopping
7. Planning family activities and active holidays together
Robert, 90, from Manchester, says he is living proof that increasing activity levels can help.
He said: “I was falling frequently and stopped going out until I was seen by a physiotherapist and took part in a strength and balance exercise programme.
“I am now stronger than I have been for years and have been able to go outside to see my friends again which I thought might never happen.”
Researchers and health professionals from the UoM are participating in a number of events related to the campaign including a flash mob with younger and older people across the city on October 1st and a celebration of International Older Person’s Day in Levenshulme.