Senior Planet will host a special talk on Preventing Falls on 9/23 at 3pm EST; check the Senior Planet Events Listings here for more details about joining via Zoom. 

At first glance, the statistics driving Falls Prevention Awareness Week (Sept. 21-25) sound sobering and well, depressing. From the CDC: “Every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) suffers a fall in the U.S.—making falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group.” There’s more: “One of four older adults will fall each year in the United States….”

But here’s the bright spot:  “Falls are not a normal part of aging.”

So, it’s really under your control to minimize the chances you’ll be that 1 in 4 — or the 3 of 4 who stay upright.

Being aware of that—and of your personal risk for falling—is a great first step, says Kathleen Cameron, MPH, senior director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging (NCOA). This organization runs the National Falls Prevention Resource Center, funded by the Administration on Aging, part of the U.S. Health & Human Services Department. And a member of her team will conduct an upcoming Senior Planet workshop on fall prevention—why it’s important, what to know, how to reduce your risk. 

“We do a wide range of fitness classes, ones that promote flexibility, strength, balance and endurance,” says Senior Planet associate director Fiona Adams. “This workshop is a nice complement to those offerings. Falling is not inevitable as we get older, but it is a concern to some of our members.”

With awareness about your risk, information about reducing that risk, and an assessment of your surroundings, you can reduce your chances of falling.

What’s Your Risk?

Who can resist a quiz? We found two to assess  your risk of falling. Here, the NCOA’s Falls Free CheckUp, which asks you to answer 12 questions and rates your risk based on your score. The CDC has a quiz, too, which also produces a score of your risk. Some of the questions may be surprising—you’re asked about medication, whether you rush to get to the bathroom and your overall mood, among others.

Fall Prevention Plan

While many falls don’t require much more than a bandage or nursing a bruise, falls can also cause serious brain and hip injuries among older adults. Here, Cameron and the experts at the CDC suggest how to reduce risk: 

  • Find an exercise program with a balance component to it, such as Tai Chi. Senior Planet offers many online classes for you to choose from.
  • Ask your pharmacist or your doctor to review your medications. “So many medicines can cause side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, even blurry vision,” Cameron says. Your doctor may be able to adjust the dose or change the medicine while still treating the condition well.
  • Look around your house to remove tripping hazards such as throw rugs and clutter. Put a strip of colored tape on the edge of stair steps so you can be aware of the steps even in dimmer light. 
  • Get your vision and hearing checked annually. Blurry vision can increase the risk of falls, and hearing problems may affect your balance.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have fallen, if you feel unsteady, or if you fear falling. A fear of falling could limit your activity level, Cameron says, and that’s not good for overall health. Bring up the topic, she suggests; don’t wait for your doctor to do so.  
Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based health and lifestyle journalist who writes for a variety of websites. She’s the person at the party who will listen with interest about your medical condition and view your scar. She is an ecstatic new Mimi and also enjoys hiking, jogging, socializing and buying baby clothes.
Photo: Gary Binder

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