Learning from older people’s experiences of falling over outdoors

Authors: Nyman, S.R., Ballinger, C., Phillips, J. and Newton, R.

Conference: British Society of Gerontology

Dates: 11-13 September 2013


Research objective Falls are a major threat to older people’s health and wellbeing. Approximately half of falls occur in outdoor environments but little is known about the circumstances in which they occur. We conducted a qualitative study to explore older people’s experiences of outdoor falls to develop understanding of how they might be prevented.

Methods We conducted nine focus groups across the UK (England, Wales, Scotland). We used different recruitment sites so that our sample was from urban and rural settings and different environmental landscapes. Participants were aged 65+ and had a least one outdoor fall in the past year. We analysed the data using framework analysis.

Main results Forty-four adults aged 65 – 92 took part and reported their experience of 89 outdoor falls. Outdoor falls occurred in a variety of contexts, though reports indicated the following contexts may have been more frequent: when crossing a road, in a familiar area, when bystanders were around, and with an unreported or unknown attribution. No strong pattern emerged in regard to the contexts for falls that resulted in fracture or anxiety about future falls.

Conclusions While outdoor falls appear to occur in a wide range of contexts, the findings suggest that we need a better understanding of person-environment-activity fit. Whilst providing an engineering solution to mitigate the impact of falls may be desirable (such as lower kerb height, safer roads to cross), it is only by understanding the individual’s interaction with that environment that we can start to meaningfully prevent outdoor falls.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Samuel Nyman