Older person watering plants

I’m in later life

Did you know you’re more likely to suffer an accident at home than anywhere else?

While minor accidents cause discomfort and inconvenience for a short time, more serious accidents lead to hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions every year. Falls are responsible for four out of five accident-related hospital admissions among people who are aged over 65.

It’s not surprising that people in later life have said that slips, trips and falls at home are the accidents that they’re most worried about, and that they’d like more support and advice to prevent them. We hope the resources in this web hub will help!

How can falls be prevented?

Slips, trips and falls at home can happen for all sorts of reasons, but the good news is they’re not inevitable.

Maintaining an active lifestyle and especially keeping good levels of strength and balance can help to prevent falls. Simple changes to the home environment can also reduce your risk of falling.

How I can maintain strength and balance?

Regular light activity and movement throughout your day, coupled with some specific exercises that help to improve strength and balance can be helpful in preventing falls. Structured exercise programmes that are individualised to the person and progress in challenge over time offer the greatest benefits, but there are lots of things you can do at home to start to improve your strength and balance. There are options for doing exercises in a seated or standing position, and you don’t need any specialist equipment or kit.

We’re delighted to be working with Later Life Training, who are experts in strength and balance, to give you an introduction to these movements.

To give you a flavour, let’s start with these top 10 exercises for strength and balance:

1) Circulation boosting

(to reduce inactive sedentary time)
  • Sit tall, hip walk the buttocks forwards to just past the centre of the chair
  • Lightly hold the sides of the chair if you need to
  • Using the ankles and feet, march the legs
  • Build to a steady rhythm that feels comfortable
  • Continue for one to two minutes
  • Add the arm march, one arm at a time, keeping your posture lifted – you will feel the need to take slightly deeper breaths, but should not be breathless. This is the aim of the circulation boost.

2) Stand up and sit down for strength

  • Place the heels slightly behind knees
  • Lift the trunk tall and ease slightly forwards
  • Stand up (using hands on the chair for support if needed. Progress to no hands over time)
  • Step back until legs touch the chair, then stand tall, bend knees and slowly lower bottom back into the chair
  • Build to repeat two to three times, increasing to 10 times over time – and repeat across your day.

3) Heel raises for strength

  • Stand tall holding a sturdy table, counter or the sink
  • Raise heels taking your weight over the big toe and second toe, hold for a second
  • Lower heels to the floor with control
  • Build to repeat three to five times, increasing to 10 times over time – and repeat across your day.

4) Toe raises for strength

  • Stand tall holding a sturdy table, counter or the sink
  • Raise toes taking weight back on to heels, without sticking your bottom out
  • Hold for a second or two
  • Lower toes to the floor with control
  • Build to repeat three to five times, increasing to 10 times over time – and repeat across your day.

5) Turning with confidence - 180 degrees

  • Stand side-on to a firm, fixed, reliable support, with hand on the support
  • Feet hip width apart, weight even across both feet
  • Feel balanced and confident before you start
  • Take a few marches on the spot to feel confident and then start to turn the direction of the march towards your support
  • Pick up the foot from the floor, replace and get your balance before you step again
  • Keep feet hip width apart, this will provide more support during the turn
  • Stop when you are facing the opposite direction to how you began (with your other hand on the support), pause and return back to start position.

6) Four positions of balance and extra steps practice

  • Stand side-on to a firm, fixed, reliable support, with hand on the support
  • Feet hip width apart, weight even across both feet
  • Feel balanced and confident before you start
  • Bring the feet closer together, try to hold this position – build to 10 seconds over time. Once you are successful with this position, try the next…
  • With the leg farthest from the support, take a half step forwards, try to hold this position – build to 10 seconds over time. Once you are successful with this position, try the next…
  • With the leg farthest from the support, step the foot in front of the other, as if walking on a tight rope
  • Transfer weight across both of the feet, take extra steps at any time if you feel unsteady, build to 10 seconds over time. Once you are successful with this position, try the next…
  • With the leg farthest from the support, prepare to stand on one leg. Take half step behind and bending at the knee lift the foot from the floor, replacing it to regain balance when you need.

7) Upper back squeezer (using a tea towel)

  • Sit in upright position
  • Fold a tea towel, grip palms up to trunk width
  • Keeping the tea towel at belly button height (palms up), lift your chest up to open the posture and pull apart the tea towel to put mild tension through
  • Keeping elbows “tucked in”, squeeze the tea towel towards your tummy, elbows drawing behind you
  • Feel the shoulder blades squeeze together
  • Breath freely as you usually do
  • Return to start position, release grip, relax posture for a moment and then repeat.

8) Wall press/push up

  • Stand at arms’ length from wall
  • Place hands on the wall at chest height, slightly wider than shoulder width, fingers upwards
  • Keeping back straight and tummy tight, bend elbows lowering body with control towards the wall
  • Press back to the start position
  • Build to repeat two to three times, increasing to 10 over time, and repeat across the day when you feel you can.

9) Directional stepping

  • Stand side-on to a firm, fixed, reliable support, with hand on the support
  • Feet hip width apart, weight even across both feet
  • Feel balanced and confident before you start
  • With leg farthest from the support, step the leg forwards, heel strike first, transfer your weight and step on to that leg
  • Push back to start position
  • With the same leg, step out to the side, ball of foot leading and contacting the floor first, transfer weight across both feet and then push back to start point
  • With the same leg, take a small step behind, ball of foot contacting first, transfer the weight across both feet and then push back to start point
  • Feel balanced before you step in any direction
  • Take extra steps if you need to regain balance at any point.

10) Flamingo swing

  • Stand side-on to a firm, fixed, reliable support, with hand on the support
  • Feet hip width apart, weight even across both feet
  • Feel balanced and confident before you start
  • Stand tall
  • With the leg farthest from the support, bend and raise the knee slightly and with control swing the leg backwards
  • Try one or two swings and build to five to six, put your foot down to the floor if you feel unsteady – this is a positive movement to rehearse!
  • Turn slowly to repeat on other leg.

Demonstrations

Watch these videos showing strength and balance exercises. The first video gives a really good introduction to what strength and balance is all about, and the following three videos include some progression that you could build into your routine.

An introduction to strength and balance exercises
Strength and balance exercises - Progression video 1
Strength and balance exercises - Progression video 2
Strength and balance exercises - Progression video 3

Exercise tracker

Being able to track the exercise you do can be really a good motivator for keeping it going, and provides great opportunities for celebrating achievements. This downloadable exercise tracker will help you to do just that.

Can I do strength and balance classes near where I live?

Many areas offer strength and balance classes, which provide great opportunities to get out of the house, meet new friends and stay active. Coronavirus has meant that most face-to-face activities have been paused, but they are starting to be reintroduced in some areas. Lots of online classes have also been launched, which participants are able to join from home.

Contacting your local council or community healthcare trust is a good place to start to find out what’s happening in your area.

Later Life Training provides specialist exercise training to health and exercise professionals who work in strength and balance programmes and falls prevention services across the UK. Since March 2020, it has been running three daily “movement snacks” on Facebook as Make Movement Your Mission. These live and interactive sessions help keep people moving and support them to feel more confident in performing movements needed for everyday movement and daily activities. There is a vibrant community feel even though people join from across the UK and indeed the world.

There are many exercise programmes that include strength and balance. The key is finding the right programme for you. Exercise instructors who have completed training as a Specialist Postural Stability Instructor or have completed the Otago Exercise Programme Leaders Award have all undergone specific training to deliver effective and safe strength and balance exercise.

If you’d like help in finding information about what’s on offer where you live, including contact details of local postural stability instructors (PSIs), please email us and we’ll do our best to put you in touch with a local service. You can also call us on 0121 248 2130.

How can I make my home safer?

Accidents at home are often caused by hazards that are easy to overlook, but simple to fix.

Falls, fire, hot water scalds and carbon monoxide poisoning can all be more serious as we get older, and finding out how to prevent these accidents can go a long way to making our homes safer.

Follow these steps to a safer home:
  1. Spot the hazard – take a look around your home and check for things that might cause injury
  2. Find out how to reduce the risk – this web hub has lots of tips on what you can do to prevent accidents. If you’re unsure how to make your home safer, speak to friends, family or support groups for guidance
  3. Make the changes – most accidents can be avoided through simple changes to the home environment or how we live
  4. Keep up the good work – it’s easy to fall back into bad habits, so try to keep your new practices in place.

Watch these videos about making your home safer

Preventing falls in your home: a room-by-room guide
Preventing falls in your home: a guide to safety aids
Tips for making your home fire safe
General tips for making your home safer

Finding out how to get up safely after a fall could also give you reassurance that you’d know what to do in the event of a fall happening.

Checklists

After watching the videos, why not download these handy checklists, which will help you look around your own home with a fresh pair of eyes. How many of the boxes can you tick?

Checklist for preventing falls at home
Checklist for preventing falls at home

Falls are often caused by hazards in the home that are easy to overlook, but simple to fix

Checklist for preventing fires at home
Checklist for preventing fires at home

Being aware of the most likely cause of fires in the home can help prevent them

Checklist for preventing accidents at home
Checklist for preventing accidents at home

More accidents happen in the home than anywhere else, but there are simple steps you
can take to reduce the risks

The exercises shown on this webpage and in the associated videos are not designed as a structured home exercise programme. You take responsibility for your own watching and taking part in the movements that are demonstrated. The authors and advisers of the movements accept no liability. Bex (Rebecca) Townley, Later Life Training, RoSPA and RSA Group are not responsible or liable for any injury or harm you sustain as a result of the resources, including videos, text and images, on this website. All content is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own GP or any other health care professional.

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