Identifying who is at risk of falling and protecting people from falls with aids, home adjustments and medication. That is important, but half of all falls happen outdoors!
That is why I call in this column to look for linking opportunities in fall prevention. A slang word? Perhaps, but it is a word that makes it clear that if we visit each other from different fields, thousands of people per year do not have to fall. We have already started at GGD Gelderland-Zuid, where I work as a Healthy Living Environment advisor. We look at ways to keep people fit earlier in the process. If you exercise enough, you have more muscle strength and sense of balance. And how do you stimulate exercise with a living environment and an outdoor space where you as an older person can do well. For example, walking to the supermarket, or taking a walk. In an environment with wide, well-maintained roads and sidewalks, where cyclists do not ride among pedestrians, and where a bench is available along the way to rest on.
Checklist and experience
We are still at the beginning with those linking opportunities. The Opportunity that I want to highlight in this column is therefore a place that has yet to become an Opportunity. In Nijmegen-Oost we are conducting a pilot to inventory the outdoor space around the Acacia senior complex. We have mapped out routes to the supermarket, the community center and a park for exercise. These routes were assessed using a technical checklist based on guidelines and bottlenecks were identified. We also walk the routes with residents. And that produces completely different things. They reason from their experience. “I never walk here because there are all kinds of wheelie bins on the street.” “I don’t cross here because I don’t see the cars coming.” We put all these things in a report for the municipalities and the housing association. What is going well, but also areas for improvement. Hopefully we can tackle a lot of that together!
We would also like to show you how we conducted this research and what we noticed around Acacia workshop in the context of Gelderse Buitenkansen. I cordially invite you to come to Nijmegen-Oost on November 30. There I will tell you more about the pilot and how you can use the insights. And of course we will look on location, ending with a joint lunch.
Seize every coupling opportunity
The nice thing is that one matching opportunity can lead to another. Through the pilot I came into contact with the project leader of the Spoorbuurt in Nijmegen. That neighborhood is being overhauled due to climate adaptation. The perfect linking opportunity to improve the exercise-friendliness of the outdoor space! So we have also explored the neighborhood there with residents, and we came across, among other things, a missed opportunity for a meeting and exercise area.
So do you work in spatial planning and do you plan sewer maintenance? Take the opportunity to have a healthy living environment advisor take a look. Are you a neighborhood sports coach and do you see that the route to the location where you train with the elderly is not exercise-friendly? Sound the alarm at the municipality. Do you initiate maintenance from the housing association? See if you can take the outdoor space with you and have an informal chat with experts.
And especially: gonna try things out. Of course, the ideal future is a hub of lifelong homes for the elderly in the perfect outdoor space. Where the street pattern is designed in such a way that pedestrians and cyclists enjoy being there. Which also contributes to climate resilience, sustainability and social cohesion. But while we work on that vision of the future, you can also start with something small. That one street that is being raised. That fallow lawn. That sawn-down tree that can easily be transformed into a bench in the park. Let’s meet up and brainstorm together. Because every minute we put into improving the outdoor space ultimately ensures that more people keep moving and fewer people fall. And that’s why we do it!