Older adults have an alarmingly high chance of falling inside and outside the home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 3 people age 65 and older falls each year. After age 80, that increases to a 1 in 2 chance. That means your senior adult has a 33 percent to 50 percent chance of falling this year.
Physical Changes that Increase the Risk of Falls
- Age-related muscle loss lessens strength and weakens bones.
- Aging bodies and medications make balance more difficult.
- Worsening vision impairs seniors’ ability to stay upright and clearly see what’s nearby.
- Diminished flexibility, especially in hips, knees, and ankles, can cause to falls.
- Lower endurance (how long you can stand and walk with tiring) raises fall risk.
- Lower strength, balance, and flexibility make seniors feel less confidence in their walking ability.
Falls can be devastating to seniors’ health in the short term and long term. In older adults, falls can cause hip fractures and head injuries. They’re the leading cause of death from injury, because of traumatic brain injury.
Even if a fall is not life threatening, seniors can face long-term consequences because their bodies are less able to recover fully. Overall health can worsen and care needs increase, sometimes leading to extended stays in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.
The good news is that falls do not have to become an inevitable rite of passage with aging. The chances of falling can be substantially lessened with small modifications around the home.
Steps Toward Preventing Falls
- Area rugs are a major trip hazard. Tape them down or consider getting rid of them.
- Declutter the house, especially the main walk-through areas. Clutter tends to pile up quickly, but try to keep shoes, newspapers, books, and clothing out of the path of seniors.
- Hallways and stairways should be well lit. Seniors tend to make more frequent trips to the bathroom, especially at night. Light up hallways leading to the bathroom. Make sure the steps on the stairwell are well-lit for easier navigation in the dark.
- The kitchen and the bathroom often have wet floors. Add nonslip mats in the kitchen and bathroom, near the sinks and bathtub or shower to greatly reduce falls on slippery surfaces. Apply stick-on nonslip strips to tub and shower floors.
- Consider adding safety supports. Add an additional railing on the stairs or install grab bars in the bathroom.
- In the bedroom and kitchen, move frequently used items down from high shelves. Put them within easy arm’s reach.