A new report has shown falls to be the commonest cause of injury requiring hospital admission, particularly among older women.
The report, Trends in hospitalised injury due to falls in older people 2002–03 to 2014–15, by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) revealed people aged 65 and over accounted for 30 per cent of injury cases in Australia.
The greatest number of injuries occurred in women aged 85 to 89.
“Overall, people aged 65 or over accounted for 30 per cent of injury cases, with the majority of these being for falls,” the AIHW’s Professor James Harrison said.
“The number of hospitalised injury cases rose from 327,000 in 1999-2000 to 480,000 in 2014-15.
“This equated to one person requiring hospitalisation in every 58 Australians in 1999-2000, rising to about one in 50 in 2014-15.”
This respresented an average rate increase of about one per cent per year, after adjusting for changes in the population structure.
Falls-related injuries made up 52 per cent of all female hospital admissions, compared to 32 per cent of all male admissions.
But a technology-based program called StandingTall may help train seniors to maintain their balance and avoid falling.
The program, developed in Australia, is an individually-tailored, home-based, fall prevention app based around a specific set of balance exercises delivered through a tablet computer.
The app can be accessed via the internet. It includes more than 2000 exercises with video instructions and was designed for older people to use independently at home, allowing them to choose when and for how long they exercised throughout the week.
It recommends a dose of two hours of exercise each week.
The exercises are designed to train both static and dynamic balance skills, while standing on the floor or a foam cushion and while stepping in different directions and on a box.
Trials of the program are expected to start soon in Australia and in the United Kingdom.
University of New South Wales (UNSW) Associate Professor Kim Delbaere said falls in seniors often led to hip fractures and loss of independence, resulting in greater costs for carers, communities, families and loved ones.
“Our previous research has taught us that to prevent falls, older people should exercise for two to three hours per week, or as little as 20 minutes a day,” Associate Professor Delbaere said.
“By embracing technology, we are providing an alternative exercise opportunity, which is engaging, fun and motivating, hoping to generate higher levels of adherence over a longer period.”
Research has shown around half of people who break their hip suffer mobility disability and 25 per cent of all people who break a hip die within 12 months, UNSW said.