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Fear of falling keeps seniors inside

November 1, 2012

Experiencing a fall is one of the greatest obstacles in the path toward healthy aging, and many seniors who do have to go to the hospital as a result. While certainly a concern, new research suggests that fear of falling may be preventing seniors from staying as physically and socially engaged as they should.

The study, conducted by the UK Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS), found that many seniors are afraid to leave their home on their own due to fear of falling. The findings also highlighted the psychological toll that such incidents can take on seniors, with about 21 percent of people who suffered a fall saying they lost confidence as a result. Additionally, 10 percent said independent living was harder for them because of their injuries.

"These are bleak findings. With winter approaching, older people have little confidence to get out and about because they fear they will fall and as this research shows, the psychological effects of worrying about a fall can be as debilitating and devastating as physical injuries," said David McCullough, the chief executive of WRVS.

Perhaps most alarming is that seniors may actually raise their risk of falling due to lack of confidence, as physical activity is one of the best ways for them to prevent these incidents. According to the Mayo Clinic, gentle activities such as walking and Tai Chi can help improve strength and balance, two key components to avoiding falls.

Staying upright is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, but many older adults find it difficult to do so. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of adults over 65 experience a fall each year, and they are the leading cause of injury-related death for that age group.