Ahead of International Day of Older Persons (1 October) experts at Fraunhofer AICOS are raising awareness of strength and balance programmes, which can halve the risk of falls and potentially prevent many thousands of injuries each year.
Falls are a serious problem that affect a third of people aged 65 and over every year, and are the biggest cause of accidental death for older people, with substantial costs to the health service.
The effects of a fall go beyond the person who falls and can have a negative economic and emotional impact on the whole family. A fall can result in a loss of confidence and social isolation as well as increasing the family's worry about the health, safety, and mortality of the older person.
Often, older people feel that falls are unavoidable, but a wealth of evidence from experts across Europe has repeatedly shown that, in most cases, the cause is preventable and the new campaign is intended to get the whole family involved in promoting this message.
Fraunhofer Portugal is part of E No Falls: European Network for FALL Prevention, Intervention and Security and ProFouND: the Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination - two European Commission-funded networks aiming to provide the best falls prevention and healthy ageing advice to help prevent falls among older people across Europe.
Ahead of International Day of Older Persons on 1 October, E NO Falls and ProFouND are leading a ’Stay Strong, Stay Steady’ campaign 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.
Professor Chris Todd, overall project leader of the ProFouND network based at The University of Manchester, 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.
Here’s how families can get involved:
> Checking for strength and balance classes in your local area and promoting them to your older relative or friend;
> Checking homes for hazards such as rugs, poor lighting and loose cables;
> Encouraging annual eyesight and hearing checks;
> Requesting a GP or pharmacist to review your relatives or friend’s medication every six months;
> Encouraging a diet high in Vitamin D or time outside in natural sunlight to improve bone health (eating oily fish, eggs or take supplements);
> Being active together and encouraging physical activity– playing exercise video-games, gardening or shopping;
> Planning family activities and active holidays together.