Global initiative aims to prevent falls in older adults


Chaired by Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso, Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute, a group of 96 experts from 39 countries and 36 societies and agencies in Geriatric Medicine and Aging have come together to develop the “World Guidelines for Falls Prevention and Management for Older Adults: A Global Initiative.”

Published in Age and Ageing, the official journal of the British Geriatric Society, the guidelines provide recommendations to clinicians working with older adults to identify and assess fall risks. 

elderly man walking with cane

“The global population is aging. Thanks to social and medical advances, some chronic conditions are diminishing proportionally. This is not the case for falls,” says Dr. Montero-Odasso, who is also a Geriatrician at St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Parkwood Institute and a Professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “Unfortunately, falls and related injuries among older adults are increasing and there is no sign of future decline.”

With new evidence and studies released since previous guidelines were published more than a decade ago, experts felt it was the right time for an update and an opportunity to incorporate a worldwide perspective.

“Besides the rigorous methodology that 11 international working groups followed to provide new meta-analyses, including several new Cochrane collaborations, this World Falls Guidelines are, to the best of our knowledge, the first clinical practice guidelines in fall prevention to include a panel of older adults with lived experience in falls and mobility problems,” says Dr. Montero-Odasso. “They provided feedback, comments and opinions on our recommendations, making them considerably better and with wider applicability.”

Some key themes in the recommendations include:

  • Falls can be prevented, but it requires multidisciplinary management.
  • Preventing falls has wider benefits for quality of life.
  • Fall risk can be assessed by trained clinicians with simple resources.
  • A combination of interventions, including specific exercises to improve balance and strength, when delivered correctly, can effectively reduce fall risk in older adults.

Dr. Montero-Odasso says there was enough evidence to suggest that a global approach is needed to prevent falls in older adults and that “low risk does not mean no risk.” Even active older adults who are low risk should work on preventing loss of mobility and falls.

The next steps are for the guidelines to continue obtaining formalized endorsement of all the groups involved in the initiative and then for the guidelines to be fully implemented.

You can read the full guidelines here.

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