Live Stronger for Longer is the theme of this year’s ‘April Falls’ month-long campaign raising awareness of the harm caused by falls, and what can be done to prevent them.
Geriatrician and ACC falls clinical advisor Dr Shankar Sankaran, says the Live Stronger for Longer movement is gaining strength in communities throughout New Zealand.
With a focus on strength and balance exercises, the programme was developed by government agencies and health providers for people over 65. It helps people to stay well and independent in their own home.
‘A fall can be devastating for older people,’ he says. ‘It can make them fearful of falling again, which stops them doing the things they used to do. This can lead to social isolation and even depression.
‘Every year, one-in-three people over 65 will fall. For people aged 80 and over, the risk increases to one in two. Not every fall results in an injury, but those that do can cause broken bones, which can be painful and take a long time to heal.’
Sankaran, who is Consultant Geriatrician at Middlemore Hospital, says people are often unaware of the link between a broken bone and osteoporosis.
‘Osteoporosis is the gradual loss of bone strength and density. Over time bones become fragile which causes then to break more easily. The good news is it’s never too late to build up bones and keep them strong and healthy.’
He says the Live Stronger for Longer website offers practical information and advice on how to live an active, independent life and encourages people over 65 to join community group strength and balance classes.
‘Exercise classes can help prevent falls and give older people the chance to have some fun and meet new people, or see if in-home support is appropriate.
‘If you know of anyone who has had a fall, or has limited their activities because of a fall, encourage them to join a class in their community!’
‘April Falls’ month is promoted each year by a growing number of health care providers around the country, including district health boards, aged residential care providers, and community care providers.
There will be an increasing alignment with the Live Stronger for Longer movement supported cross agency by the Health Quality & Safety Commission, ACC and the Ministry of Health.
Tips to help prevent falls at home
If you are feeling unsteady on your feet don’t wait until you have a fall to tell your family, or health professional. There are four key things that you can do to prevent falls:
– Improve your strength and balance – ask your doctor or nurse (or the health professional you see the most) to recommend an appropriate programme or exercises that are right for you
– Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to review your medicines
– Get annual eye check-ups and update your glasses
– Make your home safer by:
– Removing clutter and tripping hazards, including mats and rugs
– Putting railings on stairs and adding grab bars in the bathroom and toilet
– Having good lighting, especially on stairs.