IT’S a common problem, but one Hampshire council reckons the solution to elderly people tripping over could lie in a simple change of footware.

In a bid to slash the number of older people suffering falls, Southampton City Council is waging war on ill fitting slippers that are sending them tumbling.

It wants to take dangerous slippers out of circulation by offering free replacements.

Under the “sloppy slippers” scheme pensioners are being offered the chance to swap their old worn out slippers for a new pair. A slipper exchange is being held in the city tomorrow where pensioners will be able to select high quality replacement footwear in one of two colours.

The self-fastening slippers provide a better fit than slip-ons and reduce the risk of trips. And the council is even laying on free transport for those who can’t catch a bus. The council hailed its “sloppy slippers” initiative as a “brilliant idea” that “really does help reduce falls among senior citizens”.

According to latest figures around nine per cent of hip fractures suffered by elderly patients are as a result of bad footware. Each fracture costs the NHS around £20,000.

National figures show one in three pensioners fall each year.

Research by the University Hospitals of Leicester suggested 24,000 over-65s in the UK fall over at home every year because of poorly fitting footwear – especially slippers. Southampton City is organising and paying for the slippers on behalf of the Later Years Partnership. So far 86 pairs have been fitted under the scheme that sees the council buy slippers in bulk at a cost of around £3 each.

Home Safety co-ordinator Barry Olson said falls were often life-changing events for older people.

“This is a simple preventive measure for a small amount of money that can improve the quality of life.”

While they have slippers fitted by specialist podiatrists. pensioners can also have their risk of falls assessed, get advice and information, and be referred to other services.

The slipper swap is being held tomorrow at Meon Court, off Minstead Avenue, Harefield, Southampton, between 10am and 1pm.

For a free lift to and from the event, call 023 8091 5439.

Slipper facts

■ The word slipper dates back to 1478 from the much older English verb to slip.

■ In Japan it is customary to remove shoes for indoor slippers.

They also have special toilet slippers.

■ In Scotland, slippers are often called “baffies”.

■ Derek “The Slipper Man” Fan holds the world record for wearing a pair of dress slippers – 23 years straight.

■ The ruby slippers Judy Garland wore when she played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939) sold for a record $165,000.