Until we learn how to turn back the clock, we can’t do anything about our age. However, we can do quite a bit to mitigate the causes of fatal accidents to older adults.
Below is a list of the most common accidental deaths in the United States for older adults according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. We then recommend several simple, quick and affordable ways to reduce the likelihood of those injuries happening to you.
The five leading causes of accidental deaths in the US among adults aged 65 or older are:
1 in 3 seniors fall every year. Falls cause broken hips, arms and wrists, concussions, sprains and even death. Beloved singer Leonard Cohen is believed to have died from a fall. Falls are responsible for over 55% of all fatal injuries among seniors.
Preventing Falls: The quickest and easiest ways to prevent falls are to install tacky bath mats or tape in the tub and bathroom floor, install automatic night lights throughout the house, remove clutter and trippable objects (oriental rugs), wear shoes and slippers without heels and with sling backs.
If you live alone and you're afraid of falling, consider getting a medical alert system that has automatic fall detection or can put you in touch with emergency services or family members at the press of a button.
2. Motor Vehicle Traffic
Driving requires good eyesight, hearing, quick information processing and quick reaction times – none of which get better with age. However, with so much of our independence tied to driving, most are very reluctant to give it up. For some it’s too late.
Preventing Driving Accidents: The most important factor in preventing driving accidents among older adults is to know when to hang up the keys. Use tools like AAA’s self-evaluation test, take your state’s driver test for seniors if it has one, get assessed by an occupational therapist, take a drivers safety program to refresh your skills, review your medication side effects and make sure your driving a car that’s suited for seniors.
3. Suffocation & Choking
Choking on food, non-food objects and suffocating in bed are leading causes of death in seniors.
Preventing choking and suffocating hazards: Avoid high risk foods such as hard candies and peanut butter, cut food into small pieces, cook them so they are soft, ensure good denture fit, reduce sedation medication while eating, ensure restraints in wheelchairs and beds cannot get caught around the neck, and ensure there are no gaps between mattress and wall or guard rail that someone can fall into.
Older adults are disproportionately susceptible to poisoning from smoke, toxic gases, medications and food.
Preventing Poisoning: Make sure smoke alarm detectors are installed on every floor and are tested every year, make there is a function carbon monoxide detector, if possible link the detectors to a monitoring center, ensure annual maintenance of the heating and water heating system, review all medications (prescription & non-prescription) your taking with your doctor regularly, ensure medication compliance with a pill box, throw out older medications, make sure fresh foods are delivered regularly and foods past their due date are thrown out.
The leading causes of fires among seniors are smoking, leaving the burner on, leaving food on the burner too long, flammable loose fitting clothing catching fire on the stove and heating.
Preventing Fires: Do not smoke in bed or on the couch, do not smoke next to oxygen tanks, wear short or tight fitting sleeves when cooking, don’t leave your pan when cooking, use one appliance per outlet, give at least three feet of space to space heaters from anything that can burn, get smoke detectors!