Improved living standards, better healthcare, greater awareness of the importance of a healthy diet and taking regular exercise have led to more and more people enjoying life into their 80s and 90s.
While everyone is at risk of taking a tumble every so often, for an elderly person, a fall can be far more serious. We found some alarming facts and figures on the RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) website along with helpful advice.
Those over 65 years of age are most at risk, suffering both the highest mortality rate and the most severe injuries. In 2009 in England and Wales alone, people aged 65 or over accounted for 7,475 deaths as a result of an accident of which 49% were due to a fall. More dated figures relating to A&E attendances after home accidents show that falls are by far the single largest cause of attendance. In 2002, 2.7million people attended an A&E department in the UK following a home accident, of whom 1.2million had suffered a fall. Over-65s accounted for 19% of the total number of A&E home accident attendances, but 30% of the attendances were due to accidental falls at home.
The majority of accidents in the older age groups also involve females rather than males.
Many of the fatal and non-fatal accidents to older people are attributable wholly or in part to frailty and failing health. This can lead to failure or slowness to see and avoid risks. By drawing the attention of older people and their carers to danger spots and unsafe habits then accidents can be reduced.
The great majority of both fatal and non-fatal accidents involving older people are falls. Almost three-quarters of falls among the 65-and-over age group result in arm, leg and shoulder injuries. Older people are also more likely to injure more than one part of their body, with 25% of falls causing injury to more than one part of the body, compared to an average 16% among all age groups. One in every five falls among women aged 55 and over results in a fracture or fractures requiring hospital treatment.
Other main injuries suffered are bruising or crushing, cuts, wounds resulting from piercing and straining or twisting a part of the body.
Although most falls do not result in a serious injury, being unable to get up exposes the faller to the risk of hypothermia and pressure sores.
The most serious accidents involving older people usually happen on the stairs or in the kitchen. The bedroom and the living room are the most common locations for accidents in general.
The largest proportion of accidents are falls from stairs or steps with over 60% of deaths resulting from accidents on stairs. 15% of falls are from a chair or out of bed (on two levels) and a similar number are caused by a slip or trip on the same level, e.g. falling over a mat or a rug.
You can help prevent falls in the garden or when entering or exiting the house itself by adding GRP Anti-Slip Stair Tread Covers or Stair Edging. Choose a bright or contrasting colour to ensure the hazard is spotted by those with failing eyesight; the rough surface texture reduces the risk of a slip if the steps are wet or icy.
To download RoSPA’s short guide to the most common accidents in the home Safe at Home: Tips for the over 65s click here.