Falling out: What do we really know about outdoor falls?

This source preferred by Samuel Nyman

Authors: Newton, R., Nyman, S.R., Ormerod, M., Skelton, D. and Ward Thompson, C.

http://www.bsg2011plymouth.org.uk/

Start date: 5 July 2011

Getting outdoors is a key factor in preserving good physical, mental and social health in all age groups but particularly as people move into older age. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the “cost” of sedentary behaviour is £8.3 billion per year to the economy. However, falls can lead to disability and decreased mobility, and fear of falling is a key inhibitor of getting outdoors for older people. Approximately one third of people aged 65+ living in the community fall at least once per year, with many suffering multiple falls. Although about half these falls are away from the home (either internal or external locations) there is poor data on the actual number of falls outside. In recent EPSRC funded I’DGO research (www.idgo.ac.uk) 15% of respondents aged 65+ (n=1600) reported they had fallen outside within the past 12 months, though many falls were likely to have not been reported.

Many of the environmental risk factors (pavement quality, dilapidation, kerb height) associated with outdoor falls appear to be preventable through better design and maintenance. However, to address these factors properly, we need a better understanding of how older individuals perceive of, and use, outdoor places. This paper looks at how the person-environment ‘fit’ is affected by all types of hazards, both physical and psychological. The key point is that appraisal of outdoor spaces will affect how (and how often) older people use them, which has a knock-on effect on how physically or socially active they can be.

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