Falls don’t have to be part of getting older

Falls, and the injuries they cause, are not an inevitable part of ageing. According to researchers from The University of Manchester there are many things that can be done to prevent falls.

The University of Manchester is part of ProFouND: the Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination - a European Commission-funded network aiming to introduce best practice in falls prevention and make available simple interventions to help prevent falls among older people.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries among older people, but experts from across Europe argue they should not just be written off as an unavoidable consequence of ageing. Research shows that there are plenty of things people can do to prevent falls escalating with age.

Dr Emma Stanmore, from The School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at The University of Manchester, said: “Many people wrongly think that falls are just a part of ageing and something to be expected as you get older which is not true. But this misunderstanding is not surprising as falls happen so often – around a third of people over-65 and half of those over 80 will fall every year.

“To tie in with International Day of Older Persons day on 1 October, we want to raise awareness among older people, their relatives and organisations that work with older people that falls can be predicted and prevented using some simple methods.”

Professor Chris Todd, from The University of Manchester who is the leader of the ProFouND network, said: “There is very strong scientific evidence that we can prevent falls among older people. For example, strength and balance exercises can protect against falls, but these should be done with professional guidance to ensure they are suitable and to maximise their effectiveness.
“We have brought together the ProFouND network funded by the EC, which is supporting the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing by making training material available across EU to help reduce the numbers of falls suffered by older people in Europe.”

Dr Stanmore added: “You should minimise the amount of time spent sitting and being sedentary for extended periods – in fact older adults should aim to be active daily and do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more each week.

“If you have any medical conditions, this really should be done after checking the advice of a health professional. Why not try visiting your local library to find out about exercise classes close to you, like Tai Chi. Many health authorities have information on sessions that aim to improve strength and balance, or look at the NHS falls prevention page on the internet.”

Research shows the risk of falls is increased if an older person has a history of falls, has problems with walking, uses a walking aid or has certain conditions including a previous stroke, Parkinson’s disease, dementia or arthritis. Falls risk can also be increased if an older person takes four or more medications, have a fear of falling, problems with continence, poor vision or strength and balance problems. People with a history of falls should talk to a health professional about local falls services that might help them and ask to have the doctor or pharmacist review their medications.


Notes for editors

For further information or to request an interview with Dr Stanmore or Professor Todd, please contact Alison Barbuti | Media Relations Officer | Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences |The University of Manchester | Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre (MAHSC) Tel. +44 (0)161 275 8383 | Email: alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk

ProFouND: The Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination is an EC funded initiative dedicated to bring about the dissemination and implementation of best practice in falls prevention across Europe lead by the University of Manchester. ProFouND comprises 21 partners from 12 countries, and associate members from a further 10 countries. ProFouND aims to influence policy to increase awareness of falls and innovative prevention programmes amongst health and social care authorities, the commercial sector, non governmental organisations (NGOs) and the general public so as to facilitate communities of interest and disseminate the work of the network to target groups across EU.

The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing was launched in April 2012. Europe is in a process of demographic ageing: more people get older, and fewer young people enter the labour market. To tackle this demographic challenge, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP-AHA) aims to increase the healthy lifespan of EU citizens by 2 years on average by 2020. EIP-AHA aims for a triple win: better quality of life, more sustainable systems for health and social care, and innovation, jobs and economic growth.

The EIP-AHA Action on Falls Prevention is made up of more than 70 organisations from all over the EU including universities and research groups, public authorities, health providers, industry, non-governmental organisations representing citizens, older people, patients and others interested in the field. The plan is to identify best practice and support the introduction of evidence based operational programmes for prevention of falls, early identification and minimisation of risk and good clinical management of people who fall.

The EIP-AHA on Falls Prevention is supported by two EC funded networks
ProFouND: The Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination
E-NO FALLS: European Network for FALL Prevention, Intervention and Security

International Day of Older Persons: On December 14, 1990, the UN General Assembly made October 1 the International Day of Older Persons