Slips, trips and falls that cause injury and death are all too common, and they disproportionately affect older people. Indeed, one-third of older U.S. adults suffer falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, a fear of falling can alter habits, negatively impacting one’s quality of life.
Fortunately, many such falls are highly preventable. Changes in vision, balance and muscle strength that can occur as one ages can be addressed, and other external risk factors can be prevented.
Regular exercise is important for maintaining the physical strength and mobility needed to reduce the risk of falls. Taking classes to improve balance, such as tai chi, has also been shown to reduce the risk of falls.
Many community centers and fitness clubs offer classes designed for older individuals, so be sure to consult your healthcare provider for an exercise routine that is appropriate for you.
“Set a reminder to get regular health screenings for bone density, vision and other fall risk factors. Staying aware of these physical changes and adapting to them, can help you remain healthy and independent,” says Carrie Nie, director, Safe Communities America, National Safety Council.
“Most falls happen at home, so it’s important for individuals, caregivers and loved ones to focus on keeping the home free of safety hazards that increase the likelihood of falls,” says Nie.
Installing grab bars, additional handrails and extra lighting can make it easier to maintain balance, improve vision and avoid tripping hazards. You should also free walking areas of tripping hazards, such as electrical and phone cords and open drawers and cabinets. To avoid slips, use non-skid rugs, clean up spills immediately and wear proper footwear.
Individuals and loved ones should look into local resources available that can help prevent falls and maintain older adults’ independence, as well as get involved in efforts to make their community more accessible.
Many communities are already engaged in such efforts. For example, counties, cities, towns and universities accredited by the National Safety Council Safe Communities America program, put initiatives into place to raise awareness of the risk of falls and increase older adult independence and safety at the local level. The program also works with volunteer groups to make the homes of older adults safer. For example, one such volunteer group, “Team Handyman,” installs grab bars, hand rails and other safety features in the homes of older adults in Midland, Michigan.
To learn more about fall prevention, as well as community safety efforts, visit nsc.org.
While aging itself is not the cause of falls, older people are at greater risk of taking a spill. To reduce your risk of falling, keep your home safe, your body strong and your community engaged.