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Murray McEachen, Chris Sinclair and Matthew Croucher have worked together on the project.

‘Tipple and topple’ videos tackle falls prevention

Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking too much, but alcohol’s ability to wreak havoc on the body is the subject of a new set of discussion videos called ‘tipple + topple’.

The series of 10 videos, funded through a Ryman Healthcare grant of $20,000, are being used in the community by Age Concern Canterbury.

With titles like ‘Alcohol & our social world’, the videos are narrated by Dr Matthew Croucher, who is a psychiatrist of old age and specialises in issues such as treatment options for depression. Less alcohol is the core message.

“This has already motivated people to think that there are actually quite small changes they can make that don’t cost them anything that will probably make a big difference for their futures,” Dr Croucher says.

Alcohol can have a cumulative impact on our health, for example affecting our balance, says Dr Croucher, who works for the Canterbury DHB. It does that by gradually impairing our brain control systems as well as the vulnerable long nerves in our legs. Older people’s organs also change in how they can withstand the effects of alcohol, such as the liver becoming less effective at clearing it as a toxin from the body.

Age Concern chief executive Simon Templeton said that as a charity and a specialist in the health and wellbeing of over 65s, his organisation has already been screening the videos to members of the public visiting its Papanui office and community space.

The videos tack on nicely to a Steady As You Go programme Age Concern has been running for about 15 years. The programme talks about general age-related issues including keeping one’s balance and the danger of falls. About half of those over 80 would experience a fall some time within a 12-month period, he said.

“It’s a really good programme. We were thrilled that Ryman came on board and funded something we were trying to get funded for years … [if it] changes that behaviour, it has done its job.”

Beverley Mason is a Steady As You Go coordinator with Age Concern and has already shown one or two of the videos to visitors to the Age Concern Canterbury offices. She was surprised at the pulling power of the videos, saying older people couldn’t help but be drawn in. “They are very effective,” she says.

Chris Sinclair, a community liaison leader within Ryman’s operations team, is passionate about the ‘tipple + topple’ work and proud of the production values of the videos, which aim to normalise conversations about alcohol.

She explains that older people who have taken a fall or tumble are likely to feel some shame about any part alcohol may have played in putting them off balance, making them reluctant to talk about it. “A lot of the falls that are alcohol-related go undetected.”

Before taking on the Ryman role, Chris worked at addiction treatment centre Odyssey House in Christchurch, and as a precursor to ‘tipple & topple’ worked with various collaborators. Odyssey House Community Services clinical social worker Murray McEachen said the videos would be a great falls prevention resource. “From our perspective it’s a wonderful tool for working with our support groups, some of whom are not connected to Age Concern but still are going to suffer the same issues.”

Next step is for the project to be rolled out by Age Concern in Canterbury and throughout the country.

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