As we age, we begin to notice significant changes in how our minds and bodies function. That’s why so many people choose to plan ahead. For example, those who are under the age of 40 should create a will to ensure that their wishes are acknowledged once they’ve passed. And although modern medicine has come a long way and may help to extend our lives, certain medications may have side effects that makes injuries more likely. Since four out of five older people take one or more daily medications (and many experience physical symptoms due to health conditions, pharmaceutical side effects, or both), seniors typically need to take preventative steps to ensure they stay safe in their own homes.
For younger folks in the workforce, 22% of slip and fall accidents result in more than 31 one days away from work. But even though many seniors are retired, a “simple” slip and fall incident can translate to even more time off their feet and even life-threatening conditions. After all, according to SeniorLiving.org, falls are the leading cause of injury-related fatalities and the leading cause of non-fatal injuries among individuals aged 65 and older. Other research shows that one in three elderly adults suffers a major fall in a stairway every year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention echoes those sentiments, reporting that one in five falls among seniors cause serious injuries, with more than 3 million seniors receiving treatment at emergency departments each year due to falls.
In other words: senior falls are serious and need to be prevented at all costs. The National Council on Aging recommends that loved ones and caretakers discuss concerns about falling with seniors in their lives, as well as information about their health conditions and details about their last appointments with specialists (including eye doctors). Talking about the medications they take, particularly non-prescription medications that may contain sleep aids, and the schedules they keep to make sure medications are taken as instructed. Keeping the lines of communication open between seniors and those closest to them can address the likelihood of a fall before it actually happens.
If you’re a senior or soon-to-be senior, you may also want to make amendments to your home and to your routine in order to prevent slips and falls. Installing grab bars, handle bars, or secure railings in bathrooms and stairwells, switching out home flooring for non-slip materials, and adding adequate lighting can help seniors age in place and continue to navigate their homes without incident. Be sure to remove any cords, boxes, plants, tables, and other potentially hazardous items from high-traffic areas, to secure rugs with tacks or backing, and to either repair or remove loose flooring or floor coverings from your home to avoid trips. Seniors should also wear sensible, non-slip shoes both inside and outside, as going barefoot or wearing only socks indoors can make falls more likely. Always stand up slowly, proceed with extreme caution on slippery walkways, and limit your alcohol consumption. Prioritizing physical activity can also help with fall prevention, as practices like yoga or tai chi can improve balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility.
Although we can’t always control every aspect of aging, we don’t have to merely accept that getting hurt is an inevitable part of senior life. Contrary to popular belief, falling isn’t a normal part of growing older — and falls can be prevented. If you’re worried about falling, talk to your doctor about how to reduce your risk and how to stay safe both at home and out in the world.