Here are six easy steps you can take today to help your older loved one reduce their risk of a fall:
1. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe.
Ask your older loved one if they’re concerned about falling. Many older adults recognize that falling is a risk, but they believe it won’t happen to them or they won’t get hurt—even if they’ve already fallen in the past. A good place to start is by sharing NCOA’s Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls. If they’re concerned about falling, dizziness, or balance, suggest that they discuss it with their health care provider who can assess their risk and suggest programs or services that could help.
Deaths from unintentional injuries are the seventh leading cause of death among older adults (1), and falls account for the largest percentage of those deaths.
As the population of persons aged 65+ years in the United States, increases, the rising number of deaths from falls in this age group can be addressed by screening for fall risk and intervening to address modifiable risk factors such as polypharmacy or gait, strength, and balance issues.
Approximately one in four U.S. residents aged 65+ years (older adults) report falling each year, and fall-related emergency department visits are estimated at approximately 3 million per year.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death and hospitalizations in Utahns age 65 and older.
Consequences from a fall can severely limit one’s ability to live independently. Older adults who fall once are twice as likely as their peers to fall again. Despite these statistics, falls do not need to be an inevitable part of aging.
Research has shown that many falls can be prevented. Three major strategies to reduce fall risks are keeping your home safe, managing your medication, and performing regular strength and balance exercises.
The section below provides ideas for individuals, family members, and caregivers to address major fall risks and safety tips for moving about outside the home.
You can do balance exercises almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like.
Having good balance is important for many everyday activities, such as going up and down the stairs. It also helps you walk safely and avoid tripping and falling over objects in your way. Also try lower-body strength exercises because they can help improve your balance.
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily—most often in the hip, spine, and wrist. Osteoporosis is more common in women, but men also have this disease.
The good news is there are things you can do at any age to prevent weakened bones, such as including regular weight-bearing exercise in your life, eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, stopping smoking, and limiting how much alcohol you drink.
Your bones and muscles will be stronger if you are physically active. Weight-bearing exercises, done three to four times a week, are best for preventing osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are examples of weight-bearing exercises. Try some strengthening and balance exercises too. They may help you avoid falls, which could cause a broken bone.
There is evidence from high quality studies to strongly support the positive association between increased levels of physical activity, exercise participation and improved health in older adults.
Worldwide, around 3.2 million deaths per year are being attributed to inactivity. In industrialised countries where people are living longer lives, the levels of chronic health conditions are increasing and the levels of physical activity are declining. Key factors in improving health are exercising at a moderate-to-vigorous level for at least 5 days per week and including both aerobic and strengthening exercises.
Few older adults achieve the level of physical activity or exercise that accompanies health improvements. A challenge for health professionals is to increase physical activity and exercise participation in older adults.
Some success in this has been reported when physicians have given specific, detailed and localised information to their patients, but more high quality research is needed to continue to address this issue of non-participation in physical activity and exercise of a high enough level to ensure health benefits.
Tai Chi for Arthritis/Health is a 1-hour class led by a trained instructor. Tai Chi is an enjoyable exercise that can relieve your pain, improve your health, and increase your ability to do things. It’s easy and fun to learn. Tai Chi consists of slow continuous whole-body movements, strung together in a form. Like dance, the movements are learned and follow one after the other. Anyone 65 and older is welcome to join!
Enhance Fitness focuses on dynamic cardiovascular exercise, strength training, balance, and flexibility — everything older adults need to maintain health and function as they age.
Led by a certified instructor, classes are held three times a week in community settings and are a great workout. Each class may include up to 25 participants and participants may either be amongst peers of their own level of fitness or a group of various fitness levels from the frail to the more fit older adult. Participants completing the program report experiencing: