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Experiences of the Built Environment, Falls and Fear of Falling Outdoors among Older Adults: An Exploratory Study and Future Directions

Sciprofile linkAngela Curl, Sciprofile linkHelen Fitt, Sciprofile linkMelanie Tomintz
Abstract: Falls can have serious impacts on the health, wellbeing and daily mobilities of older adults. Falls are a leading cause of injury and death amongst older adults and outdoor falls comprise a substantial proportion of pedestrian injuries. As well as physical injuries, the psychological impacts of experiencing a fall can result in older adults getting out of the house less often, resulting in lower levels of physical activity and social connection. Despite the known consequences of falls, relatively little research considers the impact of the urban built environment on falls among older adults. This research aimed to explore the experiences of older adults in the urban environment, falling and the fear of falling outdoors. We conducted an online survey with adults aged 50+ using a participatory mapping survey tool and a convenience sample. The study area was Greater Christchurch, New Zealand. Results suggest that both perceived accessibility and neighbourhood conditions are independently associated with fear of falling, after controlling for frequency of falling, gender and activities of daily living. Our findings demonstrate the need for much better understandings of the relationships between the urban environment, outdoor mobility, fear of falling and falling among older adults and we propose suggestions for future research.
Keywords: wellbeing / Built environment / Ageing / mobility / falls / Fear of Falling

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