Standing Up To Falls

Age Concern Tauranga would like to acknowledge ACC’s support and commitment to our members by providing the editorial content and development of these pages.

Many people over the age of 55 are concerned about losing their independence following a fall. But it's not something that 'just happens' as you get older. Many falls can be prevented. That means you can take positive steps to protect yourself and ensure you continue to enjoy an active, fulfilling life.

Preventing falls is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your independence. There are aspects of your health and how you behave – as well as things in your surroundings – that you can change to reduce your chances of falling.

Falls are the single most common cause of injury

ACC Standing Up To FallsSome people, especially those who have experienced a serious fall, can worry so much about falling they restrict their activity. They gradually do less activity, which can actually increase their risk of falling.

The message is: don’t give in to it. The more you do, the more you can do to help keep you on your feet, the following simple steps are outlined in full in ACC's brochure "Standing up to falls" in the attached PDF.

  • Manage any health issues that may increase your risk of falling
  • Make your home safe – that's where most falls happen
  • Recognise your limitations - don't be too proud to ask for help
  • Have a plan just in case you do fall.

Women are one and a half times more likely to fall than men.

Keeping yourself safe

Your health and well-being that can contribute to your likelihood of falling and it’s a fact that our faculties and physical abilities deteriorate a little as part of the ageing process.

Usually, the changes happen slowly, so we don’t always notice them at first – but that doesn’t mean we have to give in to them

If you are over 65 you have a one in three chance of falling this year.

Assess the impact of any specific health problems

You may have a specific medical condition that increases your risk of falling. This could be caused by symptoms that accompany the condition – like dizziness from low blood pressure – or even side effects from the medication itself.

Health problems may affect your:

  • Strength
  • Ability to move and react quickly
  • Ability to see potential hazards
  • Awareness of your surroundings

Discuss this with your doctor/health professional.

If you have fallen more than once in the past six months, you are more likely to fall again. Talk to your doctor about any falls you have. Falls can be a sign of a new medical problem.

Keep Mobile

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to help stand up to falls. That’s because weak leg muscles and poor balance increase your risk of falling. You are likely to walk less if you feel unsteady on your feet, and that leads to weaker muscles and stiffer joints. If this sounds like you, it’s time to get active! Regular exercise provides you with a whole range of benefits, it can:

  • Improve your balance
  • Improve your muscle strength and flexibility
  • Help keep your bones strong
  • Give you more energy
  • Help sleep better
  • Help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels and weight.

One in five people over 65 will suffer serious injuries as a result of a fall.

Look out for your eyes

We can never take our eyesight for granted. Our eyes help us see obstacles, judge distances and keep our balance. As we get older, we take longer to adjust to sudden changes in light, are more sensitive to glare and less able to judge distances and depth accurately, for more information click to see how you can look after yourself.

By the age of 65, we need three times the amount of light to see than we did at 20

Stand up for your feet

Keeping yourself mobile is very important in avoiding falls. As we age, our feet can change shape and lose some feeling. Painful, swollen feet or badly fitting shoes can make walking difficult and affect our balance.

If you are over 80, you have a 50% chance of falling this year

How safe is your home

Make your home and garden a safe haven for yourself – and for your family and friends

Everyone's home is different, so it pays to be aware of your surroundings and things that could make your home unsafe.

  • Light up your stairs and where floor levels change
  • Install hand rails
  • Keep walk ways safe – inside and out
  • Keep things within easy reach... and at the right height

View the PDF "How safe is your home?" for more information.

Falls cause 90% of all hip fractures.

View the PDF "Standing up to falls" for more information and advice on:-

  • How you can help to make your home safe
  • How to look after yourself when you are out and about
  • Being prepared – just in case you do fall do
  • Strategies for getting up by yourself
  • Plus there's a home safety checklist – which can help you identify potential hazards in your home that may increase your risk of falls.

These tips are just some ideas for preventing falls. You can find out more by calling 0800 844 657 visiting www.acc.co.nz or by contacting your health professional.

This information has been developed by the Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand.
ACC would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Australian Department of Health and Ageing in the development of this content.