Oct 17, 2012
By Jane Brown
We often hear that older people can easily fall and become injured. Now ground-breaking Canadian research may lead to improved strategies to prevent tumbles by the elderly. Scientists at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia are the first to use closed circuit video survellance systems to observe falls in real time to best pinpoint the causes. After setting up cameras in the public areas of two long term care facilities they observed close to 230 falls among 130 residents. The most frequent cause of falling – more than 40 percent of cases – resulted from the residents shifting their weight improperly, throwing off their centre of gravity. Twenty-five percent of falls were caused by a foot getting caught on a table or chair leg, while just over 20 percent were caused by trips or stumbles. Researchers have long assumed that the elderly most often fall because they slipped or tripped. But Professor Stephen Rabinovitch says falls his team observed were really failed attempts at performing daily activities, such as walking, sitting down, even standing, reaching or turning. The researchers hope their findings will lead to better strategies for preventing falls, bath at home and in care centres.