Unnecessary Sight Loss causes falls in Older People
A national conference hosted by the Eye Health Alliance in association with Help the Aged and the RNIB last week highlighted how poor vision can greatly increase the risk of falls in older people.
Falls represent the most common and serious type of accident in older people – in fact, one in three people aged 65 and over have a nasty fall at least once a year – and, according to the charity, Help the Aged, many of these falls can be directly attributed to poor sight.
Not only do we use visual information to spot and negotiate hazards and obstacles when moving around we also use visual cues to help us stay still while standing.
The effect that poor vision can have on our ability to remain stable and upright can be clearly demonstrated in a simple experiment. Standing with your eyes closed, and therefore, eliminating visual cues around yourself, increases ‘sway’ by up to 70%, compared to standing with your eyes open.
Speaking at the Dignity and Independence conference, Ivan Lewis MP, the Minister for Care Services told delegates that “falls don’t have to be an inevitable part of getting older” and highlighted how “eye care services can have a significant impact on improving the independence of older people.”
Regrettably falls are a major cause of death in older people and caring for those injured by falls costs the NHS and estimated £981 million a year. This needless cost to life and the public purse could be dramatically reduced if more older people took advantage of the free eye tests they are entitled to on the NHS.
A staggering four million over 60s do not have regular eye examinations and thereby put themselves at increased risk of suffering a fall. Perhaps most worryingly of all research has shown that 75% of older adults who suffer a fall as a result of poor vision had a visual impairment that was easily correctable.
So don’t be the fall guy – If you’re aged 60 or over make sure you have regular eye examinations on the NHS. An eye test and the correct spectacles can be all that’s required to make a difference and ensure you maintain your dignity and independence.
* The photograph shows delegates at the Dignity and Independence conference experiencing first hand what poor vision looks like with pairs of simulation spectacles.