Remember when you were a child, how you were always running, jumping, skipping... and falling.
Children fall all the time, but in most cases they get straight back up and carry on as if nothing has happened. Blessed with young bones and supple bodies, children tend to 'bounce'.
Unfortunately, as we grow older our bones become thinner and weaker, especially in women after the menopause, and our reflexes are not what they were. Simple trips, slips and falls can become a serious matter, resulting in painful bruising or even broken bones and long, inconvenient periods of recovery.
As with most things in life, prevention is better than cure, and there is a lot we can do to minimise the risk of trips and falls at home. If loss of balance or episodes of dizziness are becoming regular, you should seek advice from your GP. But for most people, avoiding trips and falls is just a matter of taking a few simple precautions.
Some top tips from the NHS Choices website include:
· mop up any spillages straight away, including wet floors if you come in from the rain
· remove clutter from the floor, tidy away any trailing wires and replace frayed carpet. Pet toys are another common cause of trips and falls in the home
· use only rugs and mats with non-slip backing on hard floor surfaces such as tiles or laminate flooring
· use high wattage light bulbs or torches in darker areas of your home, so you can see clearly
· don't be afraid to ask for help in doing things that you can't manage safely on your own
· organise your home so that climbing, stretching and bending are kept to a minimum. The kitchen cupboards are a good place to start
· avoid walking on slippery floors in socks or tights
· don't wear long loose-fitting or trailing clothing that could trip you up, especially when climbing stairs
· wear shoes and slippers which fit well and are in good condition, especially the soles. Footwear which supports your ankle is a good choice
· take good care of your feet. People limping or hobbling on sore or painful feet are much more likely to trip, so see a GP or chiropodist if you can't manage yourself
· have a regular eye test, especially if you think your sight is getting worse. Poor eyesight increases your risk of a fall
· take special care when getting up in the night to go to the bathroom, which can become more frequent as you get older. Make sure the route to the bathroom is well lit and free from clutter.
There is also strong evidence that regular physical activity improves strength and balance and reduces the risk of having a fall. Gentle exercise such a walking, dancing or swimming is beneficial, but there are also more specific strength exercises and balance exercises which can help. Many local community centres and even gyms run exercise classes designed for older people and your local medical centre or council should be able to help with advice on where to find them. It's always a good idea to consult your GP before beginning an exercise regime and to start slowly and build up gradually.
One particularly good form of exercise for improving strength and balance is 'tai chi'. Although tracing its roots to a Chinese martial art, tai chi is a low impact form of exercise suitable for all ages. It combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle flowing movements which improve co-ordination, movement and balance.
Finally there are various living aids which can be easily fitted to your home to make getting around easier and reduce your risk of a fall. These include hand rails, riser chairs and, of course, a stairlift – as the one place where you really don't want to trip or fall is on the stairs.
For advice from TV's Dr Hilary Jones on what features to look for when choosing a stairlift, click here.
If you're concerned that you or a relative is at risk of having a fall, you can request a 'home hazard assessment'. As well as identifying potential hazards in your home, it will assess how you use the home environment and identify how simple changes or the installation of living aids could help you. Speak to your GP or contact your local council for more information on home hazard assessments in your area.
Putting these simple precautions into place can be done quickly and with little disruption. An Acorn Stairlift can be installed in your home in just a few days, even next day if required. This applies to both straight and curved staircases and involves no major structural work or disruption, as the lift is fixed to the stairs, not the wall.
Whatever you choose to do, just don't fall.