Causes of falls

The main factors causing healthy older people to fall are environmental ones, such as tripping over furniture or slipping over floor rugs. Older people who are frailer may be more susceptible to falling, especially if they experience dizziness or have difficulty in walking. Thus, risk factors for falls among the elderly can either be due to personal factors or environmental factors.

Personal reasons:

  • Declining health, mobility and strength
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Impaired cognition
  • Medical conditions that affect vision, muscle strength or reflexes, e.g. Parkinson's disease, cataracts, stroke, etc.
  • Medications that can cause unsteadiness and/or affect balance, vision or alertness, e.g. sedatives, blood pressure medications
  • Lack of physical activity, poor muscle tone and strength
  • Fatigue
  • Inadequate nutrition and diet

Environmental reasons:

  • Uneven, loose and slippery surfaces
  • Unsecured carpets, rugs
  • Loose cords and wires
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Poor step and stairway design
  • Chairs and beds that are too high or too low
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Inappropriate eyewear

1-2-3 to Preventing Falls

  • You can lower the chances of falling by making some changes to your daily activities. Consult a doctor or a trained healthcare professional:
  1. Have your vision checked regularly.
    • Glasses with the wrong prescription and medical conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts may affect your vision and thus increase your risk of falling.
  2. If in doubt, have your doctor or pharmacist review your medicines.
    • Some medications or combinations of medications can cause drowsiness and increase the risk of falling.
  3. Always consult your doctor before starting on any medications.
  • Engage in regular physical activity
Physical activities and keeping active can make you stronger and lower your chances of falling.
  1. Ask your doctor what types of physical activity would be best for you.
  2. Have a plan for regular physical activities that fit your interest and abilities.
  3. Consider strength, balance and flexibility exercises that are most effective at reducing falls risk.
  4. For more information, refer to these websites:
  • Make your home safer
The home is the most common place where fall-related injuries occur. To make your home safer:
  1. Remove floor rugs or use a non-slip backing
  2. Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so that you don't trip over them
  3. Minimise cluttering of furniture
  4. Fix loose or uneven steps
  5. Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the shower
  6. Ensure that entrances, stairways, and rooms are well lit

In a nutshell:

  • You can control some of your personal risks of falling by optimising your health and vision. 
  • You can decrease your risk of falling in the home by reducing environmental hazards, such as removing slippery rugs or loose wires. 
  • You can reduce your risk of falling by keeping active, especially by doing strength, balance and flexibility exercises.