The fact that we are living longer is good news and something to celebrate. However, far too many people have their plans interrupted by a life-changing accident that can happen in a moment.
For example falling, especially if you are an older person, can have a devastating effect on your quality of life. As well as the physical consequences, falls can destroy confidence, leading to loneliness, isolation and a loss of independence.
A startling number of people over 65 fall. More than 300,000 people were admitted to hospital last year following a fall and over70,000 had hip fractures. Falling is the leading cause of accidental death among over 65s, claiming around 4,500 lives a year
However, falling is not an inevitable part of ageing. There are many things that we can do to stay healthy and active and reduce our risk of falling.
Here are five steps to help you enjoy longer, healthier accident free lives:
1. Take steps to maintain and improve your strength and balance.
We all know that exercise is good for us but exercises that improve our strength and balance will help to develop the right muscles to protect us from falling. We naturally lose muscle strength as we get older but simple exercises will help us to retain this. Many areas have exercise classes that focus on improving strength and balance. Check out what’s available near you. Alternatively, there are things that you can do in your own home. The NHS in Scotland has produced some useful videos on improving strength and balance. Take a look at https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/preventing-falls/keeping-well/strength-and-balance-exercises
2. Take a fresh look around your home and garden.
Are there hazards that are more likely to make you trip? Simple things like things left on the stairs or loose rugs to things that might need a bit more maintenance like an extra handrail, or someone to sort out that uneven pavement leading into the garden?
Do you need to improve your lighting even just by changing to brighter more efficient bulbs? (Did you know that to see well, our eyes need three times as much light when we are 60 as they did when we were 20?)
If you need extra help with some of these jobs organisations like Age UK often have handy persons schemes that may be able to help you. Check whether there is a service near you at https://www.ageuk.org.uk/services/in-your-area/handyperson-services/
For further information on the main household hazards take a look the RoSPA website for more information about the main household hazards https://www.rospa.com/home-safety/advice/older-people/
3. Check your meds.
For those of us who take medication, perhaps for long-term conditions, the number of items we take can mount up over time, sometimes without us really noticing. It is known that when we take four or more types of medication that we are more at risk of falling. Asking your GP or pharmacist for a medicine use review is a good idea as they can help to identify whether the medication you are taking is still suitable or necessary and whether different types of medicine might work against each other and making you more likely to fall.
4. Eyes right?
Regular eye tests are a vital part of your health routine, and can be important in helping to diagnose outstanding health problems which would otherwise go undetected as well as in protecting you from falling. If you are over 60 you are entitled to a free NHS eyesight test as often as you need one. This is often at least every two years but can be more frequent if necessary. Find out more at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/eye-health-tips-for-older-people/
5. Best footwear forward
Is that favourite pair of comfy shoes or slippers still doing the job of keeping you and your feet safe? Worn and poorly fitting shoes or slippers have been involved in many falls. Shoes that fit well protect and support your feet and may improve your balance and stability. Check your footwear today and see if it’s time for a change. You can find more information about what to look for in this handy booklet. https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/hlthy-ageing-brochr.pdf
Taking action on these five tips will help to reduce your risk of falling so that you can continue to enjoy a healthy active life. For further information and to see our videos on how prevent falling and how to get up after a fall visit https://www.rospa.com/home-safety/advice/older-people/#falls