Fact Sheet: Injury Prevention for Older Adults

American Public Health Association 

Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among people 65 and older.[1] Even when they are not life-threatening, injuries due to falls can cause a devastating loss of mobility and independence. Older adults can live stronger, longer by taking steps to reduce the risk of falling.

  • More than one-third of adults over age 65 fall each year, and of these about 30 percent suffer injuries that decrease mobility and independence.[2]

  • Factors that increase the risk of falling include side effects from medications, overall decreases in strength and balance, and hazards in the home.

  • Fractures are among the most serious health consequences of falls.[3] Hip fractures are especially serious, as up to one-quarter of hip fracture patients die within one year. Rates of hip fracture hospitalizations for older women are two times higher than for older men.[4]

  • Fall-related injuries among older people cost the nation more than $20 billion each year. By 2020, the total annual cost of these injuries is expected to reach $32.4 billion.[5]

  • Fear of falling is a major factor that causes older adults to limit or avoid physical activity.[6]

  • Certain medications have side effects such as dizziness that can increase the risk of falling. Older adults should review their medications with their doctor if they experience dizziness or other side effects that affect their balance.[7]

  • Older adults who are not physically active or who have certain conditions such as Parkinson's disease may find it difficult to maintain their balance. Moderate activity such as walking and special balance exercises can reduce the risk of falling by improving strength and stability.[8]

  • Older adults who are experiencing balance problems should talk to their doctors. Health professionals can perform simple gait and balance tests covered by Medicare. Annual vision screening can identify correctible vision problems that increase the risk of falling.

[9]
  • Ensure that all areas of the home, especially hallways and stairways, are well lit.

  • Install handrails on both sides of stairways and attach safety treads to steps.

  • Remove tripping hazards such as throw rugs, furniture and clutter from walkways.

  • Use self-adhesive, non-skid mats or safety treads in bathtubs, showers and pools.

  • Install grab bars on both sides of toilets and bathtubs.

  • Use non-skid rugs in bathrooms and non-skid mats under rugs on bare floors elsewhere in the house.

For more information about National Public Health Week, please visit www.nphw.org.

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