Frailty, Falls and Ageing Well
People in England can now expect to live for far longer than ever before – but these extra years of life are not always spent in good health, with many people developing conditions that reduce their independence and quality of life.
The NHS has a key role to play in helping older people manage these long term conditions, making sure they receive the right kind of support to help them live as well as possible. The NHS Ageing Well Programme is currently being implemented in Cornwall with the aim of helping people get timely help that enables them to maintain their independence for as long a possible and prevent avoidable hospital admissions. The health, social care and voluntary sectors are working together to ensure that people are supported to age well and this includes a strong emphasis on preventative health care.
'Frailty' is a term that is used a lot but is often misunderstood. When used properly, it describes a long term condition that affects how our bodies gradually lose their in-built reserves, leaving us vulnerable to dramatic, sudden changes in health triggered by seemingly small events such as a minor infection or a change in medication or environment.
In medicine, frailty defines the group of older people who are at highest risk of adverse outcomes such as falls, disability, admission to hospital, or the need for long-term care. Around 10 per cent of people aged over 65 years have frailty, rising to between a quarter and a half of those aged over 85.
Frailty is not limited to older people but does become more common as age increases. However it is not an inevitable consequence of getting older. Whilst there are a range of factors which may contribute to an individual’s tendency towards frailty, evidence indicates that a healthy, active lifestyle is key to preventing and managing this condition.
Many of the factors that cause people to age differently can be influenced by their environment and lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise. Keeping active is one of the most important ways in which people can prevent frailty and falls as they get older. Explore the 'Information for Patients' section to find out more. Remember, it's never too late (or too early) to make some lifestyle choices that will influence how we age.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care for may have frailty, or may be at risk of falling, it is important that you speak with your GP (or another health care professional) because there are lots of ways in which you can be supported to age well. Download this Frailty leaflet for patients [pdf] 956KB to help you understand more about the possible signs and symptoms of frailty.