Falls can happen to anyone. They are an unfortunate but normal result of human anatomy. However, as we get older, we become more likely to fall over.
Lots of people think that falls are only a risk for frail people or those with existing illnesses and conditions. However, the truth is that people aged 65 and older are at the highest risk of falling. In fact, around a third of people in this age group will suffer a fall each year, even if they are in good health. People aged 80 and over are even more at risk, with people in this bracket suffering a fall at least once a year on average.
It may surprise you to learn that, between the ages of 50 and 70, most people lose around 30% of their muscle strength. Therefore, as we age, our balance weakens and our reaction times slow down. Bones also become more brittle with age, which increases the risk of a fracture when a fall occurs. There are many factors that contribute to your fall risk. As such, the causes of a fall are generally a combination of several circumstances, such as:
Falls are unfortunately more and more common for us as we age. While there is no way to stop ourselves from ageing, we can certainly work to counter the adverse effects of age on the body.
Having a fall can be a distressing experience, even if you are not hurt. Regardless, you should mention it at your next medical appointment. If you do not have regular appointments, you should be sure to book one after having a fall.
During your appointment, you can expect the doctor or nurse to ask you a few questions about your lifestyle as well as any medications you may be taking. They will want to find out if there is anything that may contribute to your risk of falls, in order to prevent additional falls in the future.
Previous falls, trips, slips and stumbles usually indicate a risk of falling again.
You will likely be asked if you experience any of the following:
They may also assess your muscle strength, balance, and walking style to help evaluate your overall risk of falling.
Looking after your feet can be key to preventing falls. If you ever feel any tingling, numbness or any other unusual sensations in your feet or ankles, be sure to mention it to your doctor. The shoes you wear can be very important when it comes to preventing falls. Rather than just wearing socks or tights, be sure to wear shoes/slippers with good grip around the house. Make sure they fit well and are well-fastened so they do not come loose and become a trip hazard themselves.
We also find that, as we get older, our hearing just isn’t what it used to be. This can be a very big risk factor when it comes to falls, since the ears are crucial to good balance. If you already use hearing aids, you should have your hearing tested at least every three years. Otherwise, you should book a hearing test if you or your loved ones notice that your hearing has worsened. You can do this through your usual GP.
When we get older, alcohol takes effect more quickly. Drinking the same amount of alcohol results in a higher blood alcohol concentration at age 70 than at age 40, for example. This is because fat replaces muscle tissue as we age, and fat is not as good at absorbing alcohol as muscle is. Therefore, as we get older, we are even more susceptible to falls when we drink alcohol. Drinking less alcohol (or cutting it out altogether) will reduce your fall risk.
Muscle weakness is very common with age. If you’re looking to avoid falls, try building up your muscle strength. The NHS recommends that all adults do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. Gardening, some kinds of housework, and simply going for a walk all count towards this. There are some simple exercises you can do as well. Just ask your doctor for information on what may be appropriate for you, or check out our exercise guide.
As we age, our eyesight will naturally deteriorate. Lots of us have glasses already but it is worth making sure your prescription is up to date. You should have an eye test at least every 2 years. Blurred & poor vision can cause you to miss a trip hazard, increasing your fall risk. It can also cause dizziness, headaches, and migraines, all of which make you more likely to fall.
Another inevitable effect of age is weakened bones. This can make falls more dangerous, often leading to nasty fractures. Eating calcium-rich foods and getting plenty of vitamin D from sunlight or supplements is key to healthy bones. If you do not already take supplements, be sure to ask your doctor about them.
You will likely be asked about any medication you are taking, whether it be prescription or over-the-counter. Some medications or combinations of medications can make you feel dizzy or faint. In these instances, finding alternatives may help you avoid future falls. It is sometimes helpful to write down all the medication you take prior to your appointment.
We all love to feel comfy when relaxing at home. However, excessively loose and baggy clothing can be hazardous. Try and make sure the clothes you wear are a good fit so they do not catch on anything, bunch up, or trail underfoot. This will be a great help when it comes to preventing falls.
Our homes should be places of comfort and safety. However, sometimes our homes can contain hazards that we may not even notice. In order to make your home as safe as possible, you might need to make a few changes and eliminate some dangerous hazards.
Ensure all your walkways are as clear as possible, removing all trip hazards.
Make sure your home is well lit, consider lights that come on automatically with sensors.
Place non-slip mats in your bathroom and on other slippery surfaces like your porch.
Use cable ties or fasteners to keep wires tucked away safely.
Keep things you need often within easy reach. Try to make sure that all your groceries, crockery and cutlery are in easy-to-reach places in the kitchen. In other rooms, place frequently-used items at a reasonable height. Over-reaching and bending down are leading causes of falls, so make sure you are not putting yourself at unnecessary risk.
Even with all this knowledge, it's impossible to predict the future. All of us are likely to experience a fall at some point during our retirement.
Some of us carry mobile phones in order to call for help, but phones need to spend time on charge each day and you simply cannot always have one to hand.
Others will rely on being able to manoeuvre and crawl to use their landline, but this is not reliable either. What if you are injured and unable to move? Hip fractures are among the most common injuries during retirement, often caused by falls.
The only way to be sure you can get help when you need it is with a personal alarm. These are small, simple devices that allow you to call for assistance whenever you need it. They range from simple red button pendants to intelligent fall detectors. To find out how to get your life-saving alarm device, see the information below.