Have you, or someone you know had a fall recently? It might surprise you to know that over 30% of men and women aged 65 and over will have at least one fall per year; increasing to 85% for the over 85’s. Sadly the consequences of falls can go far beyond a few bumps and bruises. In the older population this can lead to a vicious circle of fear, loss of confidence, a reduction in activity, and therefore a loss of strength, stability and balance which, you’ve guessed it; results in an increased risk of falls. Of course, falling can happen at any age.
There are many ways in which to decrease your risk – welcome to Make it Fallproof, a campaign for anyone who is worried about falling and provides information from fallproofing your home to recommending exercise classes to keep those muscles and bones strong and healthy.
Leann Clarke, is a Health and Wellbeing coach, who works in a team of exercise specialists running exercise programmes including weight management, cardiac rehabilitation and falls prevention. They work in various leisure and community centres with people who often have other comorbidities (medical conditions associated with their main condition; eg diabetes in the weight management group, osteoporosis in the falls groups) so the team is highly qualified in exercise referral and specialist conditions. Leann tells us more about falls prevention.
There are various risk factors for falling, but the physical ones increase as we get older. We naturally lose bone density and muscle mass, and our eyesight, hearing and balance generally deteriorate. So what can we do to avoid this? Well, the answer is not by staying at home, as 40% of falls in the over 65’s occurs indoors, and an alarming 85% for the 85’s and over.
Studies have shown exercise to be a valuable and successful factor in reducing the risk of falls. The most effective forms of exercise are tailored to the individual, but will contain activities that work on dynamic strength, balance and co-ordination, with particular attention being paid to strengthening the muscles around the hip, ankle and knee. Leeds City Council recognises the importance of exercise as a tool to help an older population maintain independence, so has piloted specialist exercise classes in postural stability for people who have a history of falls.
Funded by the Better Lives Fund, these classes are run weekly at four venues around the city and are attended by people who have been referred by the falls clinic. The first ten weeks are lead by physiotherapists, and the following twenty weeks are taught by specially trained fitness instructors. Developed by Later Life Training, the exercises are based on the FaMe and OTAGO programmes which have been proven effective at reducing the risk of falls in older people. The exercises can all be done seated, or standing, so that everyone can be involved and work to a level that suits them best.
One of our class participants is 80 year old Ray Hinde who lives in Aberford. He came to the group after a series of falls last year, mostly in the home. He had a period of intense physiotherapy at home, and was then referred to a 10 week physio-led exercise class at Garforth Net Neighbourhood Network. After completing this course, Ray was contacted by Age Uk who referred him to the 20 week postural stability class, run by Leeds City Council at Garforth Net, a neighbourhood network.
Ray from Garforth, says:
“I’ve suffered from poor health over the years and have had a few falls. This made me lose confidence in doing the daily tasks that I used to take for granted, like going out by myself. The postural stability classes have certainly helped me get about better. I’m halfway through the course and I’ve noticed the best improvement is in my balance. When I started the course, I did most of the exercises sitting down, but now I am doing some of them standing. I can feel myself getting stronger week by week. The girls put us through our paces, and the exercises can be tiring, but you only do what you feel up to, and you get a cup of tea and a biscuit at the end to reward all the hard work!”
The benefits of exercise extend far beyond falls prevention. Amongst other things, exercise can
- Get you to meet new people
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Help you maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease
- Make you feel good and reduce depression or low mood
If you are worried about falling at home contact the Care & Repair Prevention of Falls team for help fallproofing your house. Or if you or someone you know would like some help take a look at the Are you Fallproof? pages for tips and further information. Or have a look at this video