Preventing falls - information for older people

You can take some simple steps to improve your strength and prevent yourself from falling. You can also make your home safer to live in.

What causes most falls in older people?

If you are over 65 years old, you have a one in three chance of falling this year. For people aged 80 and over, the risk increases to one in two.

Falls mostly occur when you have:

  • poor balance
  • weak muscles
  • low blood pressure
  • poor vision
  • medical conditions, eg Parkinson’s disease, stroke.

You may also be at risk of falling if you are not active, or take multiple medications.

Older people fall most often at home, leading to injuries such as cuts and bruises, broken bones, or worse. As a result, many people require admission to a hospital or residential care facility.

What can you do to prevent falls?

Even if you have had a minor fall that didn’t cause any injury, it may affect your confidence. You should tell your doctor and ask for a health assessment. Often falls can be prevented by taking relatively minor steps, such as changing your medication dosage, altering your glasses or taking some exercise. Reducing risks in your home will help too.

Avoid unnecessary risks

There are steps you can take right now to reduce your risk of falling. Start by making your home as safe as possible. For more information, see Keeping safe at home.

When you are out and about, take notice of your surroundings and keep an eye out for any potential hazards that may cause you to slip, trip or fall such as uneven pavements or loose rugs.

More useful information, including a home safety checklist is included in our booklet ACC2383 Standing up to falls (PDF 1.7M). You can download a copy here, or order it through our Publications page.

Have a health assessment

If you have had a fall, talk to a doctor or nurse about your chances of falling again. Tell your doctor about any falls you may have had and ask them to check your:

  • strength and balance
  • sight
  • medications
  • cardiovascular status (heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure)
  • current exercise or activities.

Your doctor can advise if anything needs to be changed, and if suitable, refer you to an exercise programme.

Consider an exercise programme

Falls are often prevented by undertaking a regular form of exercise that improves your muscle strength, balance and fitness. Discuss with your doctor if the exercise that you are taking, or about to start, will help to prevent falls.

Ask your doctor what exercise programme is right for you.

National fall prevention programmes through ACC

ACC is focussing on delivering low cost evidence based fall prevention programmes to deliver the right services to the right people at the right time. These programmes include the Vitamin D programme in residential care, and multi-factorial falls prevention groups in the community. We are also working with health providers to improve service provision to identify and help those at risk of falling.

Reviewed: 17 March 2014