(StatePoint) – Slips, trips and falls that cause injury and death are all too common, and they disproportionately affect older adults. Indeed, one-third of older U.S. adults suffer falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A fear of falling can also alter habits, negatively impacting one’s quality of life.
Fortunately, many such falls are highly preventable. Changes in vision, balance and muscle strength that can occur as one ages can be addressed, and other external risk factors can be prevented.
Regular exercise is important for maintaining the physical strength and mobility needed to reduce the risk of falls. Taking classes to improve balance, such as tai chi, has also been shown to reduce the risk of falls. Many community centers and fitness clubs offer classes designed for older individuals, so be sure to consult your healthcare provider for an exercise routine that is appropriate for you.
“Set a reminder to get regular health screenings for bone density, vision and other fall risk factors. Staying aware of these physical changes and adapting to them, can help you remain healthy and independent,” says Carrie Nie, director, Safe Communities America, National Safety Council.
“Most falls happen at home, so it’s important for individuals, caregivers and loved ones to focus on keeping the home free of safety hazards that increase the likelihood of falls,” says Nie.
Installing grab bars, handrails and extra lighting can make it easier to maintain balance, improve vision and avoid tripping hazards. Free walking areas of tripping hazards, such as electrical and phone cords and open drawers and cabinets. To avoid slips, use non-skid rugs, clean up spills immediately and wear proper footwear.
Individuals and loved ones should also look into local resources available that can help prevent falls and maintain older adults’ independence, as well as get involved in efforts to make their community more accessible. Many communities are already engaged in such efforts.
While aging is not the cause of falls, older people are at greater risk of taking a spill. To reduce your risk, keep your home safe, your body strong and your community engaged. To learn more about fall prevention and safety efforts, visit nsc.org.