Falls are a common and often devastating problem among older people, causing a tremendous amount of morbidity, mortality and use of health care services including premature nursing home admissions. Most of these falls are associated with one or more identifiable risk factors (e.g. weakness, unsteady gait, confusion and certain medications), and research has shown that attention to these risk factors can significantly reduce rates of falling. Considerable evidence now documents that the most effective (and cost-effective) fall reduction programmes have involved systematic fall risk assessment and targeted interventions, exercise programmes and environmental-inspection and hazard-reduction programmes. These findings have been substantiated by careful meta-analysis of large numbers of controlled clinical trials and by consensus panels of experts who have developed evidence-based practice guidelines for fall prevention and management. Medical assessment of fall risks and provision of appropriate interventions are challenging because of the complex nature of falls. Optimal approaches involve interdisciplinary collaboration in assessment and interventions, particularly exercise, attention to co-existing medical conditions and environmental inspection and hazard abatement.