One in three adults aged over 65 will fall at least once a year, and about half of these will fall more than once*.
Alongside the risk of physical injuries such as broken bones, the psychological impact of falling can be devastating. Many people lose confidence, become withdrawn and feel they have lost their independence.
To address this, Solihull Age UK is running seven group classes across the borough as part of Solihull – Together for Better Lives. This is a partnership of local health and social care organisations that have put in place a programme, called Integrated Care and Support in Solihull (ICASS), to improve health and social care for older people.
The aims of the classes are to prevent people from falling wherever possible, reduce their fear of falling and enable them to get up from the floor if they do fall.
This free Postural Stability Programme is available to people aged 65 or over who live in Solihull or Birmingham and are registered with a Solihull GP. Patients are referred to the programme by their physiotherapist, occupational therapist or GP.
So far, 78 people have benefited from the 20-week classes since these started in July 2014.
The exercises focus on strengthening their leg and ankle muscles and improving their balance to help prevent falls.
Angela Liatis, activities officer at Solihull Age UK, said: “I have seen an overwhelming improvement in patients’ health and wellbeing.
“Initially they are often frightened of having another fall, but after just a couple of weeks their confidence starts to build.”
Grace Eagles was dancing with husband Stanley when she fell, causing him to fall as well. They have attended the classes together and their mobility has improved significantly.
“I’d had a bad fall and my physiotherapist suggested I come to the postural stability classes,” said Grace.
“I can walk better and bend my knees better, and I feel better in myself. I’m more mobile than I was before – I’ve managed to get my knee down to the floor, which I never thought I’d be able to do. Now I’ve got an idea of how I can get up if I fall.”
The couple, who are both 93 years old, plan to resume dancing later this year.
Phyllis Swann, aged 90, said: “I now go out shopping with my daughter, which I wouldn’t have been able to do before. The classes have given me confidence and I’m looking forward to life.”
Gerald Andrews, aged 75, said: “Before I started the classes, a short walk to the shops was about as much as I could do. I can now walk a couple of miles.”
Rhona Finch, a community physiotherapist at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, sees patients at their home and assesses their mobility and the risk of them falling.
After observing one of the classes, she said: “It was fantastic to see how people who I wouldn’t have thought could get down to the floor had got onto their knees and then managed to get back up.”
Participants are assessed before they start the programme and after they have finished. They are then referred to other exercise classes in the area so that they can continue to improve their mobility, which will in turn help to prevent falls.
The classes are funded by Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), one of the partners in Solihull – Together for Better Lives.
Dr Michael Baker, a local GP and Solihull CCG’s clinical lead for frailty, said: “The Postural Stability Programme gives our patients much more confidence after they have had a fall.
“We work in partnership with many organisations in Solihull to improve their lives, make them healthier and keep them out of hospital wherever possible.”
*Source: Solihull Age UK