Improved health care has lead to an unprecedented growth in the older population and soon there will be more adults over 65 than children under 5 years of age. However, the incidence of falls is also increasing and fall injuries are now among the 20 most expensive medical conditions.
As seen in the image above, 1 in 3 individuals over the age of 65 falls once a year, and of those who fall, half will fall recurrently. By the age of 80 the proportion of older adults who fall annually increases to 50%. Falls lead to morbidity and mortality and can have serious implications on the individual as well as on the global population.
How do falls occur?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to falling; this includes intrinsic factors, such as:
- Chronic conditions (osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes etc.)
- Functional abilities
- Balance problems
- Muscle weakness and atrophy
- Decreased reaction time
As well as extrinsic factors, such as:
- Tripping dangers
- Unstable furniture
- Poor lighting
- Lack of stair railings
These factors and more can all play a role in increasing ones risk of falling, particularly if there are two or more factors at the same time.
How does one prevent a fall?
Various exercise interventions have proven effective in reducing fall risk. These focus on improving lower leg strength and conducting balance retraining. These exercises have been shown to decrease falls and fall related injuries by 35%. For optimal success, these interventions should be done weekly and continuously for best results, as the body is constantly ageing and needs continual strengthening to maintain optimal functioning.
Falling does not have to be a part of life as you get older. It is important to evaluate the intrinsic or extrinsic factors that may be placing you at a high risk of falling. For example, making modifications to your home (decluttering, putting in railings, removing loose carpets etc.) may reduce your risk of a fall. Perhaps you need glasses or a walking aid. Or to increase your physical activity to include strength and balance training.
Never accept that falls are inevitable.