Security and risk prevention at home

Among elderly over 65 years old, accidents and injuries are responsible for the main part of death and disability and they are also a cause for health deterioration. 40% of fatal injuries in the EU concerns elderly. On average, every day, 15 000 senior citizens experience a severe injury needing medical care, 5 500 of them are ending in hospital and 275 persons eventually die.

These accidents and injuries of elderly are mainly caused by falls: nearly 40 000 elderly die annually because of a fall. The fall risk rises with age: 3 out of 10 elderly of 65 years and older fall each year and 50% of those over 80 years. More than 50% of falls happens at the home of the elderly and 75% either inside or in close proximity to the home. [1]

With the ageing of the population the risk of falls increases. The prevention of falling has become a health priority not only in Europe but all over the world, in order to improve the quality of life of elderly people and also to limit the huge costs caused by falls of older people.

The World Health organization (WHO) figured out, that investing in healthy ageing has become crucial for the financial sustainability of health and social policies in Europe. The “Strategy and action plan for healthy ageing in Europe, 2012–2020”[2] of the WHO suggests fives priority interventions, falls prevention is one of them.

The reasons of falls are multiple as the graphic hereafter illustrates:

Source: WHO, Global Report on Falls Prevention in Older Age, 2007

Most fallings result from a combination of age and disease-related conditions and the elderly’s interaction with their social and physical environment. The fall risk is greatly increased for those with multiple risk factors. It has been shown that behavioral change and environmental modification can reduce the fall risk. Behavioral change like non-smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, sport exercises, and weight control protect elderly from falling. Home modifications reduce also the risk of hidden fall hazards in daily activities at home (for example: installation of stairway protective devices such as railings, grab bars and slip-resistant surfacing in the bathroom and provision of lighting and handrails)[3].

In the last few years, the development of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) tools has become a major focus of fall risk prevention. The strategic framework for action of the European Commission’s Pilot “European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Aging” (EIP-AHA)[4] emphasizes on technology and innovation questions and is complementary to the strategy and action plan of the WHO. They figure out three so-called life stages of elderly in relation the care process: 1. prevention, screening and early diagnosis; 2. care and cure and 3. active aging and independent living. Falls prevention is one of their strategies. The EC supports the Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme (AAL JP), and ICT projects that provide solutions for the prevention of falls. Click here to find the falls prevention projects supported by the EC: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/overview-eu-funded-running-research-projects-fall-prevention.

[1] European network for safety among elderly : Fact sheet, prevention of falls among elderly, 2007 http://www.injuryobservatory.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Older-Guide-...

[2] World Health organization, regional office for Europe : Strategy and action plan for healthy aging in Europe, 2012-2020. Regional Committee for Europe, sixty-second session; Malta, 10-13 September 2012.

[3] WHO, Global Report on Falls Prevention in Older Age, 2007

[4] Strategic Implementation Plan for the European Innovation Partnershipon Active and Healthy Ageing. Brussels, European Commission, 2011 (http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/index_en.cfm?section=activ...)