Falls in older people

Many older people are afraid of having a fall. However, moving less can in fact make falls more likely – those who stop being physically active are at an increased risk of having a fall. To avoid falls, it is important to identify potential hazards in everyday life.

At a glance

  • Many older people are afraid of having a fall and losing their independence because of an injury.
  • Those who stop being active due to fear of a fall are at a higher risk of falls than those who are active on a daily basis.
  • It is important to identify and eliminate potential hazards in everyday life.
  • Movement training can help keep people as mobile as possible and avoid falls.
Fall in older people: two men standing in front of a staircase using their hands to support an older man who is sitting with his backside on a path and bending his upper body forwards. The older man’s legs are touching the steps.

What do falls in old age mean?

Visual impairments or occasional dizziness are some of the reasons why many older people may experience a fall – and, in many cases, such falls are not without consequences.

As a result, many older people are frightened of having a fall and potentially losing their independence due to a broken bone, for example. While this fear is completely understandable, people who are less physically active due to anxiety about the risk of a fall may in fact make a fall more likely to occur. The risk of a fall increases as people become less mobile, and those who are less active are at a higher risk than those who are on a daily basis – for example, by walking regularly.

It is important to identify hazards in everyday life and eliminate them if possible. Movement training can help keep people as mobile as possible and avoid falls. The ideal measures depend in particular on someone’s personal state of health.

What are the causes of falls in old age?

Falls can occur due to health problems, such as visual impairments, occasional circulatory weakness or dizziness due to high or low blood pressure. Certain illnesses can also affect a person’s sense of balance. Some medications can also affect concentration and reflexes, which may result in a fall. These include, in particular, certain sedatives and other psychotropic medication. The risk of a fall may also be increased as a result of interactions between different types of medication.

Obstacles and tripping hazards in someone’s own home or in the immediate vicinity can also cause falls. Upright carpet edges and baseboards, loose cables, slippery floors or slick bathmats are especially hazardous.

For example, walking over a slippery hardwood floor in socks to go to the toilet can increase the risk of a fall.

Moreover, anyone who has already experienced a fall is at a higher risk of having another. However, there are measures that can be taken to reduce this risk.

How can the elderly prevent falls?

The video below explains what elderly people can do to prevent falls during everyday life.

This and other videos can also be found on YouTube.

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How common are falls in old age?

Approximately 30 out of every 100 men and women over 65 have a fall every year. The risk among residents of care homes is greater than among people living in their own home. Even among those aged over 65, most falls are minor in nature and do not have any serious health effects.

Approximately 30 out of every 100 women and men over 65 have a fall every year.

What are the consequences of falls in old age?

A fall sometimes causes a bruise or graze. Bone fractures are the outcome in less than 1 in every 10 falls, with most of these affecting the lower arm bones. Hip or thigh fractures can involve serious complications and impairments. That can also lead to lengthy hospital stays.

For people of an advanced age, having a fall with serious consequences increases the risk of becoming dependent on someone else for care.

As well as physical consequences, a fall can cause an older person to become unsettled and lose self-confidence.

How can falls in old age be prevented?

Certain precautionary measures should be taken to prevent falls. Some of these are relatively easy to implement. For example, people can check their own homes for tripping hazards. These should be removed – perhaps with the help of relatives or friends.

Falls can be avoided by taking precautions and other measures such as checking the home for tripping hazards, exercise programs, walking aids, new glasses.

The question of what other measures are useful depends on the person’s individual circumstances and state of health.

For example, exercise programs, walking aids, therapy for certain health problems, new glasses or discontinuing medication may help prevent falls.

Important: With all the measures and advice, it is important not to get too anxious in day-to-day life. Most falls are minor.

Those who stay active also protect themselves from falls. For older people in particular, it is good to be physically mobile – and this also helps them hold onto their independence as much as possible.

You can find more information on the topic of what older people can do to prevent falls at gesundheitsinformation.de.

In cooperation with the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (Institut für Qualität und Wirtschaftlichkeit im Gesundheitswesen – IQWiG). As at:

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