Falls can result in serious consequences including disability and death. Find out more about how to lower your risk.
Falls can cause pain, disability, loss of independence and premature death. In Singapore, about one-third of older people aged 60 and above have fallen more than once.
Falls can be prevented. Let us first take a look at what are the likely causes of falls.
It has been found that most falls in older people happen in their home. The majority of these falls occur due to clutter or hazards such as slippery floors or loose cords. Other conditions like visual problems and ill health also increase the risk of falls in older people.
Uneven, loose and slippery surfaces
Unsecured carpets, rugs
Loose cords and wires
Poor step and stairway design
Chairs and beds that are too high or too low
Weakness, imbalance and poor coordination
Medical conditions that affect vision, muscle strength and reflexes (e.g. Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma)
Medications that can cause unsteadiness or affect balance, vision and alertness (e.g. sedatives, blood pressure drugs)
Lack of physical activity, poor muscle tone and strength
Falls can result in complications ranging from fractures to long term hospitalisation. The consequences of falls can be split into physical and psychological:
Fractures, especially at hip or forearm
Pain or discomfort
Health problems due to prolonged immobility
Difficulty or inability to move around independently, especially for long periods of time
Unsteady walking pattern
Loss of independence
Changes to daily routine
Financial costs of hospitalisation
Decreased quality of life
Frustration at losing their independence to carry out daily activities
Fear of falling again
Distress resulting from uncertainty and anxiety in life after suffering from fall-related injury
Embarrassment from injury or use of walking aids
Loss of self-esteem due to inability to take care of oneself after falling
Loss of social contacts due to long-term hospitalisation
Falls affect lives of individuals who have fallen, their family members and friends.
Individuals who are at risk of falls can reduce the chances of falling by making some of these simple changes to their daily activities.
Ageing Well: 5 Essential Health Tips for the Elderly
Physical activities and keeping active can make you stronger and lower your chances of falling.
Aim to do at least 150 – 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly. Simple measure of exercise intensity: During moderate-intensity physical activity, you should be able to talk but not sing.
In addition, do a mix of physical activity, especially strength, balance and flexibility exercises at least 3 days a week.
For example, do exercises such as Tai Chi, Pilates or swimming to strengthen your muscles and improve your balance. On other days that week, do aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, Zumba or cycling to improve your heart health and circulation.
Ask your doctor if you are not sure which physical activities you can do.
Have a plan for regular physical activities that fit your interest and abilities.
To make your home safer:
remove all loose floor rugs or use a non-slip mat.
coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so that you don't trip over them.
Keep floors free of clutter and maintain clear paths for walking
fix loose or uneven steps.
install grab bars and non-skid tape in the shower.
ensure that entrances, stairways, and rooms are well lit.
Have your vision checked regularly. Glasses with the wrong prescription and medical conditions like glaucoma or cataracts affect vision and increase the risk of falling.
When in doubt, have your doctor or pharmacist review your medicines. Some medications or combination of medications can cause drowsiness or giddiness. Always consult your doctor.
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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