A simple accident like tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor can change your life. If you fall, you could break a bone, which thousands of older adults experience each year. For older people, a broken bone can also be the start of more serious health problems and can lead to long-term disability.

If you or an older adult in your life has fallen, you’re not alone. In New Zealand 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 will have a fall every year(Age Concern NZ). The risk of falling — and fall-related problems — rises with age. However, many falls can be prevented. For example, exercising, managing your medications, having your vision checked, and making your home safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

But staying active is important to keeping your body healthy and actually helps to prevent falls. So don’t let a fear of falling keep you from being active! Learn about what causes falls and how to lower your risk of falling so you can feel more comfortable with staying active.

What causes falls in older adults

  • Your eyesight, hearing, and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when you were younger
  • Certain conditions such as diabetes , heart disease, or problems with your thyroid , nerves , feet, or blood vessels can affect your balance and lead to falls
  • Older adults with mild cognitive impairment and certain types of dementia are at higher risk of falling
  • Age related loss of muscle
  • Problems with balance and gait
  • Foot problems that cause pain
  • Unsafe footwear
  • Some medications can increase a person risk of falling because they cause side effects such as dizziness, or drowsiness. The more medications you take the more likely you are to fall.
  • Safety hazards in the home or community environment can cause falls e.g clutter on the floor, slippery surfaces.

Steps to prevent falls

If you take care of your overall health, you may have a lower chance of falling. Most of the time, falls and accidents don’t just happen for no reason. Here are a few tips to help lessen your risk of falls and broken bones, also known as fractures:

  • Stay physically active- plan an exercise plan that is right for you.
  • Fall proof your home
  • Have regular ear and eye checks
  • Find out about side effects of the medicines you take. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy inform your GP
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid or limit alcohol
  • Stand up slowly, getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to suddenly drop and that can make you feel wobbly
  • Use assistive devices if you need help feeling steady when you walk.
  • Choose the right footwear

ACC has developed a great programme that offers a range of strength and balance activities to help keep older people active and independent for longer so they can keep doing the things they love, and it is called Nymbl.

Here is the link to the ACC page https://www.acc.co.nz/preventing-injury/trips-falls/strength-and-balance/