SELF-HELP PREVENTION FOR VARIOUS CONDITIONS: SAFETY FOR THE ELDERLY

Growing old is a growing business with an ever increasing proportion of the population being over 65. People over 65 are at much greater risk than other age groups of having a fatal accident. The problem gets worse as the person becomes older, and women are more likely to be hurt than men.

Suffocating and choking

These accidents are chiefly associated with food. The problems may be exacerbated by arthritic hands which have difficulty cutting up food, ill-fitting dentures, or a total lack of teeth with which to chew the food. There is little that can be done positively to prevent such hazards.

Falls

Falls are the most common type of accident amongst elderly people. More than half of them occur when the elderly person is moving about on the same level but a substantial proportion also take place on the stairs.

Environmental hazards such as poor lighting and worn carpets play a part in this type of accident but physical factors are a more potent factor. These could include physical impairment, drugs or alcohol, inactivity and the reduced ability to retain one’s balance.

Cuts

This type of accident is rarely fatal, with only about twenty-five deaths a year across all age groups. Although the younger groups suffer most there is still a substantial number of accidents in the older range too. There can be medical consequences too as wounds may heal more slowly in the elderly.

Among the younger retired group lawn-mowers and garden tools are major offenders. Handling difficulties among the older group may lead to hitherto unlikely accidents with kitchen knives and can openers.

Fire

Fire and flames are the second major hazard for the older age groups. Nearly 10 per cent of cases are fatal in the 65-74 age group, and 13 per cent in the over 75 age group. Nonfatal accidents are likely to be serious. Many accidents occur because of physical problems in elderly people. Dizziness, blackouts, strokes and heart conditions are often involved in a fall on to a radiant or open fire.

Blows

Once again there are few fatal cases of a person being struck by another person or an object but there are a significant number of such incidents causing injury to elderly people. The younger age group of elderly people is typically hurt trying to retrieve an object from the top of a wardrobe or cupboard while the older age group bumps into furniture while moving about.

The general lowering of shelves and improvement of low-level storage is a task for pre-retirement days with a view to making life easier later.

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