Do you want to eliminate your number one leading risk of accidental death and injury? It's simple - don't fall.
Our recent research on improving senior safety has revealed that while falls are the leading cause of death and serious injury among older adults (by far), it's also one of the most preventable.
Our research also shows that there are three really simple things you can do to dramatically decrease your chances of falling: improve your strength and balance, eliminating environmental causes of falling and get your medical conditions treated.
Tackle those three issues, and you'll reduce your chances of falling. It's that simple.
Below we tried to synthesize the results of our research into the specific recommendations we see most frequently from the most reputable sources.
1. Improve Physical Fitness
Physical fitness tries to address the fall risk factors caused by poor balance, lack of range of motion, slow reaction times and low aerobic capacity. You can see falls reduced by 15% to 75% depending on the program. Bottom line, stay active.
- Strength exercises: sit to stand, toe raises, wall press-ups, squats, ankle cuff weights, dumbbells, rowing, Thera-bands;
- Balance exercises: Tai Chi, dance steps, catching & throwing a ball, standing with one foot in front of the other, walking on toes, tandem stepping, walking backwards, balance board, balance beam;
- Mobility & range of motion exercises: Neck rotation, hip and knee extensions, arms over head while seated, high stepping in place, large muscle stretches;
- Aerobic exercises: normal walking, fast walking, Nordic walking, bicycles, treadmills.
2. Eliminate Environmental Factors
Environmental factors refer to spaces and objects around us that either directly or indirectly increase the likelihood of tripping, slipping or falling.
- Home modifications: grab bars, second railings on stairs, toilet rails, slip proof shower mats, improved lighting, motion sensored lighting, descending shelves;
- Removal of tripping hazards: area rugs, carpeted stairways, loose steps, cracks in walkways, phone cords, wires, thresholds, obstructions in walking paths like shoes, laundry baskets, potted plants, books;
- Proper clothing: no high heels, no slippers without backing on heel, slip proof soles, shortened pants, skirts and bathrobes.
3. Manage Medical Conditions
Medical management refers to managing health symptoms that might increase the likelihood of tripping, slipping or falling.
- Vision: Whether its presbyopia, glaucoma, dry eyes, macular degeneration, cataracts or temporal arteritis, there are several age related eye diseases which increase the likelihood of tripping and falling. Schedule a visit with your ophthalmologist at least once a year to regularly update prescriptions and determine if other interventions are necessary;
- Feet: Check feet for bunions, warts, in-grown toe nails and other ailments which may make walking more difficult or shoes less comfortable, and increase the likelihood of a fall.
- Medication: Too little or too much of a given medication can often cause dizziness, light headedness, grogginess, confusion or weakness, each of which can increase the likelihood of a fall. Folks should be especially careful when changing or adding medications or dosages. You should meet with your doctor regularly and discuss any side effects your medications are causing which could lead to a fall;
- Assistive devices: For those with mobility or balance issues, sometimes an assistive device is most helpful in preventing a fall. Examples include items like a cane, a walker, tripod, raised toilet seat, stair lifts, walk-in bath tubs or a reaching grabber.
Some excellent resources we discovered and used doing our research - helpful to individuals as well: