Watch Your Step for Falls Awareness Week 2011

This guest post has been written by Amy Charters, Age UK’s Health Development Officer.

Exercises as part of Falls Awareness WeekSadly, it’s true that falling is a natural part of ageing. Around 30% of people over 65 and 50% of over-80s will fall each year, often with devastating consequences.

After a fall, an older person has a 50% probability of having their mobility seriously impaired and a 10% probability of dying within a year.

The emotional effects can be equally disturbing. Loss of confidence can lead to social isolation, with around 78,000 afraid to leave the house due to a fear of falling.

With the number of cases being so high it’s not surprising that the cost incurred by falls is so great: the current bill to the NHS and associated agencies is £1.8 billion a year; a figure which is expected to rise significantly over the coming years due to the UK’s ageing population.

Despite these facts, and the common belief among young and old alike to the contrary, falls are not inevitable.

Tailored strength and balance exercise – just one of the recommended interventions – can reduce the risk of falls by as much as 50%; yet only 44% of older people are aware that certain exercises prevent falls, and 1 in 5 admits that they cannot remember the last time they did any.

From 20-24 June 2011, Age UK will be holding its annual Falls Awareness Week to raise awareness of the risk of falling as we age and to encourage older people to take part in interventions like these.

This year, the theme of vision and falls, Watch Your Step, will put particular emphasis on the importance of having your eyes tested, which can help to identify visual deterioration and other ocular problems that may affect balance, cause difficulties in spotting hazards, negotiating steps or uneven ground, and therefore increase the risk of a fall.

There are over 900 events registered for Falls Awareness Week 2011 so far, ranging from community roadshows to information stands, walking stick M.O.Ts to ‘wrong glasses’ activities, all hoping to reach older people, friends, families and carers.

We’ll also be supporting practitioners with ongoing service development through a webinar on vision and falls on Monday 20 June at 3pm. Sessions will cover vision assessments within falls service and adapting physical activity for people with visual impairment. To find out more and register, visit http://communicatoremail.com/IN/F/wXIP-biL3occ_3j_ROJ5rm/.

For information on Falls Awareness Week and to find events in your area, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/fallsweek.

Find out more about this and other issues around services for older people at Age UK’s Services for Later Life conference on Wednesday 13 July

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