Across the UK, falls are the most common cause of hospitalisation for people aged over 65, and of accidental death in those aged over 75. Undetected and untreated problems with vision play a significant role in older people falling. As we get older, we lose the ability to focus on things that are close-up (presbyopia) and find it harder, for example, to read menus or the labels on packets, messages on our phone screens or books and newspapers. We also find that we need more light to see things clearly and that it takes longer to adapt to changing lighting conditions.
You are most at risk of falling if you:
There are lot of things you can do to reduce your risk of falling:
- Try to keep your eyes healthy – see our page on maintaining good eyesight.
- Make sure you have good lighting, for example a lamp near the chair where you sit to read, and that you turn it on as soon as it is getting dark.
- Make sure that your carpets are well fitted so there are no trip hazards, such as creases, in them. Rugs can be made secure by using rug grips and non-slip underlay.
- Wear suitable footwear indoors and outside.
- Use contrast to make things easier to see – for example, a dark toilet seat and dark bathroom floor if you have a white toilet, and contrasting edging to mark out steps and stairs.
- Wear sunglasses that absorb the UV light or a hat with a brim, to shield you from the sunlight.
- If you wear glasses for distance (watching television, walking about and so on), make sure you keep them on when you are walking outside your home.
- If you wear bifocals or varifocals, even if you are used to them, using a pair of single vision glasses to wear outdoors may reduce your risk of falling. If your glasses prescription is not very strong you may find it easier to walk about without your glasses on. Your optometrist will be able to advise you about this.
- Make sure you have regular eye examinations – especially if you notice changes to your vision. If you are over the age of 60, you are entitled to a free NHS sight test.
Falls advice, information and support
A list of UK falls service teams are available on The College of Optometrists’ website.