Older people's perception of and coping with falling, and their motivation for fall-prevention programmes

Scand J Public Health. 2011 Nov;39(7):742-8. doi: 10.1177/1403494811421639. Epub 2011 Sep 26.


Aims: This study aims to investigate older people's perceptions of and coping with falls, and what motivates them to join such programmes.

Method: We used semi-structured interviews to collect data on 14 individuals (65 years +) who contacted an emergency department because they had fallen. Data were analyzed using a phenomenographic approach that traces older people's perception of the phenomenon of ''falling''.

Results: Five categories and 15 subcategories emerged from the interviews. The five main categories were: emotional perceptions of falling; falling has consequences; coping with the situation; support from the social network; motivation and demotivation. To fall was shameful and embarrassing and could be explained by old age. To some, ''fear of falling'' was the dominant feeling. These people did not see falls as a risk factor they ought to care about. Instead, to prevent future falls, they restricted their activities or stopped certain activities altogether. If demands exceeded their resources, they asked their relatives or their general practitioner for help. Elderly people were motivated by autonomy, competence, and relatedness and preferred activities that spread happiness and joy, preferably in a social atmosphere, but they encountered elements in their surroundings that curbed their motivation.

Conclusions: Future fall-prevention programmes must target older people's needs and acknowledge that there are many ways of perceiving falling. Moreover, elderly individuals' coping strategies are not necessarily productive. Social networks and general practitioners can actively encourage older people to participate in fall-prevention programmes. Such programmes must support older people's need for autonomy, competence and social relations.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls* / prevention & control
  • Accidental Falls* / statistics & numerical data
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Program Evaluation
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires