4,000 Australian seniors hospitalised each year from ladder falls

Every year, over 4,000 Australians are hospitalised following a fall from a ladder with men aged 60-64 being the most susceptible.

The Falls, Balance and Injury research centre at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) is conducting an innovative study to understand falls-risk while using ladders and creating strategies to prevent serious injury.

“A fall from a ladder can change your life forever, especially when you are in your retirement phase and have a bucket list of activities to explore with your extra time,” said Senior Principal Research Scientist Professor Stephen Lord.

“Falls from a ladder can cause serious injuries to your chest, head and legs leading to disabilities and in some instances death.”

The ladder study asks participants to replicate how they use a ladder to complete everyday household tasks such as changing a light bulb or cleaning gutters. A series of tasks are set-up in the Falls Balance and Injury Lab to replicate real life and to measure the participant’s aptitude to a range of tasks around the home.

The results are expected to confirm that the gap between perceived ability and actual physical ability widens as we age, making climbing ladders more dangerous in our senior years.

“Many participants who took part in the study noticed challenges with correctly estimating their abilities while using a ladder,” said Professor Lord

“Many seniors thought they could do what they did when they were 20 years old, but the fact is that they can’t,” said Professor Lord.

The study also shows that simple distractions like naming animals and overstretching can throw people right off balance.

Professor Lord urges ladder users to plan before using a ladder.

“Make sure everything is sturdy, and don’t be distracted while you’re up the ladder. Wear good comfortable shoes for climbing ladders, non-slip soles are recommended, and ask someone to assist you.”

Following this study, NeuRA will produce guidelines for safe ladder use targeted to seniors.

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