staying active booklet

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Falling can be a very traumatic and devastating experience. It is not unusual to be shaken after a fall. Facts on falls:

  • One in 3 people over 65 years fall and these people are more likely to fall again.
  • Most falls occur in the home (67%)
  • A fall can lead to a fear of falling, restrictions in activity and social isolation.

Approximately half of older people are concerned about falling. Reasons for this may be because of a previous fall or knowing someone who has had a terrible fall. Poor balance and reduced mobility may also mean that you don't feel steady on your feet anymore or that your health is not as good as it used to be.

Fear of falling can be a helpful and healthy reaction. It may protect people from undertaking activities that could expose them to risky situations. However, if fear of falling is constantly on someone's mind then it can have adverse effects on the person's health and wellbeing.

Being afraid of falling can increase someone's risk of having a fall. People who are fearful of falling often feel less confident about their balance, regardless of their actual balance abilities. This can result in them being more cautious in unfamiliar places. Being overly cautious when walking in situations perceived as dangerous can actually make a person unsteady and increase the risk of falling.

Fear of falling can also stop people from doing daily activities that they enjoy such as walking, shopping or visiting a friend. This is called avoidance behaviour. When fear of falling stops someone from doing their usual activities, it might also stop them from getting the exercise their joints and muscles need to stay agile. This can lead to a negative spiral in which restriction of daily activities causes balance to get worse, which further increases risk of falling. Fear of falling can also have an impact on someone's overall wellbeing, including low mood as well as reduced social and physical functioning.

What can I do?

If you are fearful of falling and feel it affects your wellbeing, talk to your doctor or other health professional about strategies you can use to reduce your risk of falling and make you feel more confident about your abilities.

If you are fearful of falling when doing a specific activity, try the following:

  • Do it the first few times with someone before doing it on your own.
  • Think of solutions to make the activity more safe or less daunting e.g. install a handrail next to the bath
  • If you need help or assistance, be assertive and ask for help

If you don't feel as steady on your feet anymore, its even more important to stay active. Evidence based exercise which improves strength and balance has been proven to reduce the risk of having a fall in addition to improving confidence.

Otherwise if you're interested in learning more about balance and strength exercises that you can do safely at home, here are home exercises, or visit Staying Active And On Your Feet for information on preventing falls.

Just remember, being more confident and less fearful can reduce your risk of falling.

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