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Finding balance and avoiding falls

Falls and fall-related injuries are a common and serious problem for older people. They can lead to injuries, distress and loss of independence.

Each year, the NHS in London deals with thousands of fall-related injuries and, nationally, it spends billions of pounds a year on treating those injuries.

In many cases, longer-term effects of falls can mean a greater dependence on social care support in the home or admission to a care home.

Councillor Josh Blacker, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for healthy lives, said: “As we age, the chances of suffering a fall increase.

“But you can reduce your risk of having falls and suffering injury – and Ealing Council works with organisations that can help you do this.

“This includes taking simple tips for safety in the home and doing exercises to improve your core strength and balance, which is vital.”

StayActive4Life runs strength and balance classes throughout the borough, on behalf of the council. The sessions are led by trained fitness instructors.

‘There’s a really nice social aspect to it’

Pam Julien, 61, goes to Greenford Baptist Church for classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. She got into the classes during lockdown, because of her mother Ann. She said: “I used to drop my mum off at the church for the classes. Her mobility has really improved. During the lockdowns, they continued the classes online and I was following along with my mum in the living room and I thought ‘I need to carry this on’.

“It’s very good and I’m challenged by the exercises, too. There are people from all different cultures and backgrounds and we all get on really well. Some of us go to the café for a coffee or something to eat after the class and have a natter. So, there’s a really nice social aspect to it, too. The COVID lockdowns were hard, so it is good to see people back in an environment where they can see each other face-to-face.

“If I was recommending it to someone else I’d tell them you can work at your own pace, you’ll definitely see the benefits if you keep coming and it is a nice, sociable bunch there. It’s a fun hour. And I’d encourage more gentlemen to try it out, too, because it is good for everyone.”

‘They take away the notion of defeat’

Peter Kahn, 71, is from East Acton but attends classes across the borough – at Greenford, Northolt and Acton – for almost for four years. He said: “I’m a great fan of what they do. I’ve got a neurological condition called cerebellar ataxia and one of the symptoms is that my balance is pretty dodgy. I have good days and bad days.

“A friend of mine went to the Northolt class and said I should go along, and I’ve not looked back since. They give you information all the time you are exercising and explain the benefits as you go along, which is very helpful because you understand why you are doing what you are doing.

“You don’t have to do things to the same level if you can’t manage it – and they emphasise that having a go is the important thing. They take away the notion of defeat, so it’s very good. They also say that it’s important to keep challenging yourself and I find that helps to build my confidence rather than giving up.

“I’ve really noticed that my balance is better and also my confidence in trying things out is improved too. It enables me to get on and do things.

“The older you get, your body slows down – but it doesn’t mean you have to give up.”

Contact StayActive4Life via email at admin@stayactive4life.co.uk or call 07715170207.

Foiling falls

  • Get regular sight and hearing checks
  • Look after your feet, wear properly fitting shoes and slippers
  • At night, keep a torch by your bed, use night lights or leave a light on in the hallway and near the toilet
  • Remove or tape down uneven tiles or carpeting
  • Buy a non-slip bath mat
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Move about – get up for a walk or stretch every 20 minutes or so
  • Try a nearby strength and balance programme. Or try a Tai Chi, gentle yoga or light stretching class – there are some free in community centres.

For more details, visit the council’s website.

National Falls Awareness Week

During this year’s Falls Awareness Week 19–25 September, the falls team from Ealing Community Partners will be at:

  • Havelock Road Gurudwara, Southall UB2 4NP between 10am-12noon on Tuesday, 20 September
  • Greenford Community Centre, 170 Oldfield Lane South, Greenford UB6 9JS between 1.30-3pm on Tuesday, 20 September.

The team will be able to check the rubber ferrules on people’s walking sticks, and replace them if they are worn.

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