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    Research Presentations


Falls Among Older Adults:

An Overview Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls remain the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injury for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable. CDC’s Injury Center monitors falls, fall-related injuries, and associated costs, reporting:

By The Numbers

• In 2007, more than 18,000 older Americans died from injuries related to unintentional falls.

• In 2007, 81% of fall deaths were among people 65 and older

• In 2008, about 2.1 million nonfatal fall injuries in people 65 and older were treated in emergency departments and over 550,000 of these patients were subsequently hospitalized.

• The total cost of fall injuries for older Americans was $19 billion in 2000. By 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $54.9 billion. What outcomes are linked to falls?

• Twenty percent to 30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently, and increase the risk of early death.

• Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, or TBI. In 2000, TBI accounted for 46% of fatal falls among older adults.

• Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls. The most common are fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand.

• Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, leading to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, which in turn increases their actual risk of falling. Who is at risk?

• The chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall increase with age. In 2009, the rate of fall injuries for adults 85 and older was almost four times that for adults 65 to 74.

• People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.

• Women are more likely than men to be injured in a fall. In 2008, women were 46% more likely than men to suffer a nonfatal fall injury.

• Rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men.

• Falls may lead to hip fractures. In 2006, the hip fracture rate for older women was almost twice the rate for men. Safety Check Things you can do to reduce your risk of falling Instructions:

• Review the following questions carefully. • For best results, correct the items you have checked off.

• Helpful hints to help you to reduce your risk of falling are included.

• Always remember: Falls are preventable!


Do you have Any of the following?

Unsafe stairs?

Broken or worn steps?

Repair broken or worn steps. Keep them free of clutter.

Broken or missing railings?

Repair or install handrails on stairs, if possible.

Poor lighting?

• Good lighting on stairs can reduce your chance of falling. Consider adding night lights where overhead lighting is lacking.

• A night light in the bathroom can also make night trips to the bathroom easier.

• Always keep a charged flashlight near your bed for emergencies.

Medications that should be taken regularly?

A shift in the chemical levels or taking irregularly can be detrimental to your balance. Ask your doctor the safest times of day to take the medication and have a reminder such as a calendar or pill box to do so.

Good Shoes for walking or around the house?

Throw rugs?

• They are a tripping hazard. If you do not wish to remove them, they should be securely fastened with an adhesive, double-stick tape.


• Shoes, electrical cords, and magazines can be hazardous in walkways. Always keep walkways clear.

• Put regularly used items on shelves within easy reach between hip and eye level.

• If you must reach overhead, keep a stool handy.

• A long-handled grasper can be used to reach objects that are on high shelves or on the floor.

Spills that go un-wiped?

• Spills on the floor can be dangerous. It is best to wipe up spills as soon as they happen.

• A slippery bathroom floor, bathtub or shower?

• Always use a non-skid bathtub / shower mat.

• If you bathe in a shower, consider installing a non-skid shower chair and hand-held shower head so you can sit while bathing.

• Avoid pulling up on the sink to get up from the toilet or bathtub. Bathroom sinks are generally not securely fastened to the wall or floor, and are not intended to support your weight.

• Install grab bars or handrails in the shower, on walls around the bathtub, and alongside the toilet, where necessary. Furniture that is difficult to get in and out of?

Good Chairs or Furniture?

• Try to sit on furniture with good back support that you can get into and out of easily. Firm chairs with arm rests are easier to get out of. Add pillows to the back of the chair so your feet can touch the floor.

• In case you trip and fall, help is only a phone call away. Keep emergency numbers readily available and the phone nearby.


Benjamin Wobker, PT, MSPT, CSCS

Roberta Newton, Ph.D.
Department of Physical Therapy
Temple University
3307 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19140-5101




Steps Leaves


Hip X-ray



Steps Snow


Falling stairs

Throw Rug

Extension Cords







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