older man falling cartoon

Tips for Avoiding Falls

Taking a tumble is no trivial matter for older adults, but falling happens to more than one-third of Americans over age 65 each year: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among seniors, resulting in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency rooms, more than 800,000 hospitalizations, and more than 27,000 deaths annually.

Unless proactive steps are taken to slash falls, these numbers might only increase as aging Americans become more prevalent. Seniors age 65 and up will account for 20% of U.S. residents within 25 years, according to the American Psychological Association.

These startling statistics certainly deserve the attention of not only elders, but those who love them. At their worst, falls can cause hip fractures, broken bones and head injuries. But even when they don’t injure people physically, falls can greatly affect an elder’s quality of life. Many older adults curtail their activities and social lives simply because they fear falling, which can lead to negative effects such as isolation and depression.

Why do seniors fall?

According to the National Council on Aging, several common factors increase the risk of falling among older adults. They include:

  • Balance and gait issues: With aging often comes a loss of coordination, balance and flexibility, making falls more likely. But inactivity can bring about a faster decline in these areas. In addition, frailty, weight loss, and poor nutrition can lead to weakness.
  • Vision issues: Less light typically reaches the retina in older people, making it harder to see the things that might trip them.
  • Medication use: Some drugs can trigger dizziness, dehydration or other side effects that can prompt falling.
  • Home environment: Many seniors have lived in the same home for years and years, so they don’t think about simple changes they should make to keep it safer as they get older.
  • Chronic health problems: With more than nine in ten seniors coping with at least one chronic medical condition such as foot pain, arthritis or diabetes – which can lead to pain, medication use, or inactivity – falls become more likely.

Fall prevention tactics

Being aware of the risk factors for falling is a big step toward preventing falls from happening. If you’re worried about you or your loved ones falling, here are some tips to lower the risk: