Eurosafe Safety for seniors
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Safety for seniors  print friendly

Each year approximately 10% of the older population (60+) are being treated by a medical doctor for an injury and approximately 100,000 older people in the EU28 and EEA countries die due injury each year. Falls are the dominant cause of injuries among elderly people, followed by traffic accidents, burns and fires, drowning, and poisoning.

Places where non-fatal accidents in older people occure.
Source: 'Injuries in the European Union', Issue 4, summary of injury statistics for the years 2008-2010 (Fig. 5.3)

These injuries often lead to long- term physical disability, anxiety, depression, reduced confidence and social isolation among elders. The loss of life quality is huge. In addition to the human suffering, the cost of treatment and rehabilitation of older people consumes a large proportion of health care expenditures.

Injuries in elderly people can be largely prevented by:

  • Awareness raising and attitude modification measures such as mass media campaigns;
  • Behaviour modification measures such as balance training and muscle exercise; and
  • Structural modification measures such as environmental changes, product safety and building regulations.

The strongest positive effects are obtained by a combination of preventive measures. Some population-based interventions have managed to reduce fall-related injuries in independent living elderly by 40 up to 60 per cent.
Road safety laws (seat belts, alcohol limit, bicycle helmets, etc.) and fire regulations (smoke alarms), although not aimed at older people specifically, have led to a significant drop in injury fatalities for the entire population, included older people.

National policies and infrastructures for injury prevention should be more strongly targeted at safety for older people. Few countries in Europe have established concrete targets for prevention of injuries in the age group of older people and even fewer are evaluating whether their targets are being met.