“I fell out of my standing”: falls, narratives and the language of ageing

Cathy Bailey, Clodagh Cunningham, Lisa Cogan, Simon Roberts

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


There is a wealth of research addressing falls aetiology in older persons. This may be framed within western world, ageing demographics and financial concerns that require evidence of effective bio-medical interventions (Kingston 2000). Drawing on older persons’ falls narratives and building on a small body of work (see, for example, Horton and Arber 2004; Kingston 2000; McKee et al 1999; Yardley 2004), this paper highlights ways in which fallers view falls and calls for complementary, social and cultural analyses. In so doing, negative culturally and linguistically embedded notions of falling in relation to ageing, usefulness, personal control, autonomy, social embarrassment and social standing, may be challenged. In turn, the ‘faller’ may position him- or herself beyond connotations of ‘loss of control’ and decline (Horton and Arber 2004; McKee et al 1999). The falls narratives have been collected as part of an ongoing, multi-sited and multi-disciplinary Irish study Technologies for Independent Living (TRIL) that is addressing physical, cognitive and social consequences of ageing. Narrative data collection is part of an ethnography underpinning this large study.* This includes falls histories taken at the time of telephone recruitment by a clinical nurse manager and during a comprehensive medical assessment within a clinic setting and an audio recorded, qualitative interview in study participants’ homes. Collection of falls narratives is ongoing and the following discussion is developed from the recruitment and medical falls history-taking of twenty TRIL participants and the qualitative interviews of eight further participants. Exploration of falls narratives offers insights into negative and pervasive associations between ageing and falling that can culturally inform clinicians’ understanding of falls. The paper also reflects on how this understanding is being used to develop falls prevention technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2008
Event6th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology - University of Lleida, Catalunya, Spain
Duration: 18 Oct 2008 → …


Conference6th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology
Period18/10/08 → …


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