At least one third of community living Australians aged 65+ fall every year with even higher rates for people in aged-care facilities and hospitals (1). Falls alone are the leading cause of injury related death and hospitalisation in this population group.
Falls substantially reduces the mobility and confidence of older people as well as reduces their quality of life and independence. It also imposes a significant economic burden which is almost double that of injuries from a car accident (2). Thus, there is an urgent need for effective falls prevention strategies to be implemented.
Falls can have severe consequences as we age and some falls can leave a person with a server disability. In fact, systematic reviews concluded that exercise programs both strength, balance and aerobic based reduce the rate of falls and risk of falling in community-dwelling older adults (3).
For older people, falls often occur in the bathroom when standing from the toilet or shower, or at night in a dark bedroom when getting up quickly and tripping on the way to the bathroom.
The risk of falling in older adults is usually related to a combination of factors, including:
- History of falls
- Balance and walking problems: Balance can be affected by vision changes, vestibular issues and altered sensation in the feet.
- Slow reaction time
- The use of multiple medications. Studies indicate that when individuals take five or more medicines, the risk of falls increases.
- Home hazards. This accident includes dim lighting, oversized furniture, and trip hazards.
- Low blood pressure. Positional low blood pressure (such as orthostatic hypotension, when blood pressure drops upon standing.
- Feet and footwear issues.
Exercises to Prevent Falls
Developing strategies to prevent falls and fall-related injuries among older people is an important priority. Exercise can improve muscular strength, balance, balance confidence, walking speed, as well as psychological factors such as mental ability and mood. Exercise benefits for frailer people are unknown and therefore a multifaceted intervention may be necessary for this group (4).
Some good exercise for those 65+
- Chair sit to stand
Sit in a sturdy, stable chair with arms. From a seated position, use both legs (hip wide apart and parallel) to stand and then slowly sit down in the chair. Be sure to use the leg muscles and not drop down into the chair. Then, pause for a moment. Repeat. Work toward a goal of 15 repetitions, feeling steady and confident the whole time.
For extra safety, especially when first starting these exercises, you may choose to complete this exercise at your dining room table. In case you need to use your hands as you stand up.
- Calf raises
Hold on to a sturdy chair back or a countertop. Stand with your feet hip length apart and in a parallel position. Rise on toes with heels in the air. Then, lower feet flat onto the floor. Aim for 15 repetitions.
- Heel-toe balance
Stand next to a countertop and hold on with one hand. Place your right foot directly in front of your left foot and try to balance with your hands crossed over your chest. Complete the same exercise on the other side. Try this for at least 30sec.
- Balance on one leg
Stand in front of a counter or behind the back of a chair and raise one foot and balance on one leg. Then do the same on the other leg.
Aim to balance for 30sec seconds on each leg. Once confident, start to add some fancy arms e.g arms out to the side or big arm circles.
If you would like some more information on exercise or our Active Aging classes please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (03) 9016-3415 for more information.
- Tinetti ME, Williams CS. Falls, injuries due to falls and the risk of admission to a nursing home. N Engl J Med 1997; 337(18):1279-84.
- Miller J. Changing resource demands related to a fall injury in an aging population. NSW Public Health bulletin 2000; 13(1-2): 3-6.
- Sherrington C et al. Effective exercise for the prevention of falls, a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Geriatric Soc 2008; 56 (12): 2234-43
- Wolf SL, et al. Reducing frailty and falls in older persons: an investigation of Tai Chi and computerised balance training. J American Geriatric Soc 1996; 44(5): 489-97.