Older Adult Injuries – Summit session recap

The ‘Older Adult Injury’ panel session at the Injury Prevention Summit provided an opportunity for health professionals working with older adults to exchange practical information and ideas.

A recurring theme was the importance of a holistic, person-centred approach to the health of older adults. Statistically, falls make up the largest proportion of older adult injuries, however the multifaceted nature and risk factors contributing to falls makes it impossible to effectively address at a population level through one strategy alone. Instead, multiple strategies are needed, which in turn address other health outcomes in older adults. Other injuries mentioned during the panel discussion included accidental overdoses caused by confusion around medications and the emerging issue of alcohol consumption, both in terms of their interaction with medications and as a standalone issue. The need to reduce social isolation, self-harm and suicide in older adults by promoting social connectedness and mental wellbeing was also highlighted.

The role local government plays in preventing older adult injuries was discussed. Praise was given to the work being done to create age friendly communities which support positive active ageing, address access issues such as inappropriate infrastructure and costs and encourage injury preventing behaviours such as regular exercise and safe transport options. There was agreement in the room that co-designing programs with the community, meaningful partnerships and collaboration across the sector are crucial to work towards common overarching goals, and should be strongly encouraged moving forward.

When discussing the strengths of the injury prevention sector, the available evidence for what works in older adults to prevent injuries such as falls was mentioned, however it was also agreed the sector would benefit from more evaluation into what is and isn’t working at a community level. This extended to the need to acknowledge that older adults are a broad group and segmenting the population may allow more targeted approaches for certain issues.

Tackling the issue of ageism was identified as improving, however more work needs to be done to reduce the stigma of ageing. It was also agreed that navigating the aged care system is difficult for everyone, and that a more coordinated way of finding necessary information needs to be created, as well as making accommodations for older adults who do not have access to the internet or computer.

A closing comment posed an important question for the future: how do we redirect funding and resources into preventing older adult injuries for long term benefits, when service provision also needs to grow significantly to accommodate our ageing population?

Moderator: Dr Nic Waldron

Panel members:

  • Mark Teale, CEO COTA
  • Dr Ann-Maree Lynch Calnan, Poisons Information Centre,
  • Rachel Meade, Injury Prevention Manager at Injury Matters
  • Christine Young, Director Community Development City of Melville, Chair Local Government Professionals Network Age Friendly Communities