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Older people 'can take precautions to avoid falls'

20:00 EDT 26 Sep 2013 | Arthritis Research UK

Older people are to be made more aware of the ways in which they can avoid suffering an increased number of falls and injuries as they get older through a new European project.

The University of Manchester is leading the ProFouND (Prevention of Falls Network for Dissemination) scheme, a European Commission-funded project that will introduce best practice guidelines in falls prevention and make simple interventions available to help older people to avoid falls.

Around one-third of people over 65 and half of those over 80 suffer a fall each year, meaning many people have come to regard it as an inevitable part of ageing, but the aim of the ProFouND network is to spread the message that this is not the case.

For example, strength and balance exercises - such as those taught in Tai Chi classes - can protect against falls, provided they are suitable and carried out under professional guidance.

It is recommended that older adults aim to be active every day and engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week, in bouts of ten minutes or more.

Dr Emma Stanmore, from the school of nursing, midwifery and social work at the University of Manchester, who formerly carried out Arthritis Research UK-funded research into rheumatoid arthritis and falls, said: "Many people wrongly think that falls are just a part of ageing and something to be expected as you get older which is not true … We want to raise awareness among older people, their relatives and organisations that work with older people that falls can be predicted and prevented using some simple methods."
 
Such advice could potentially be of great benefit to those at a higher-than-average risk of falls, such as people affected by arthritis, a past stroke, mobility problems, Parkinson's disease, poor vision or a history of falls.
 
Dr Stanmore's research for Arthritis Research UK revealed that one in three people with rheumatoid arthritis fell once or more every year, and that those who had once fallen were at much greater risk of falling again due to previous injuries.

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