Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can lead to moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and are the leading cause of injury death among those age 65 and older. In 2007, 18,334 adults age 65 and older died from fall-related injuries—four times as many as all other age groups.
As adults grow older, their risk of being injured in a fall increases exponentially. There is a slightly higher than average risk for 65-year-olds, but this risk rises significantly in 75-year-olds and rises once again for those that age 80 and older. Older adult falls lead to reduced functions and premature loss of independence, and oftentimes a fall may indicate a more serious underlying health problem.
Falls are largely preventable, and as our population ages, more and more individuals will see their risk of falling increase. People of all ages, but especially older adults, will benefit from fall-proofing their homes and making lifestyle changes to decrease their risk of a fall leading to injury or even death.
Community-Based Fall Prevention Programs
- Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance – A 6-month program of Tai Chi classes held three times a week and conducted in community settings, followed by a 6-month period in which there were no organized classes.
- Included 24 Tai Chi forms that emphasized weight shifting, postural alignment and coordinated movements, following the classical Yang style
- Each session included instructions in new and previously reviewed movements, synchronized breathing techniques and musical accompaniment
Participants in the classes had fewer falls and injuries, and their risk of falling was decreased by 55 percent.
- Stay Safe, Stay Active – Weekly structured group sessions of moderate-intensity exercise, held in community settings, with additional exercises performed at home.
- Balance and coordination exercises, including modified Tai Chi exercises, practice in stepping and in changing direction, dance steps and catching and throwing a ball
- Strengthening exercises, including exercises that used the participant’s weight and resistance-band exercises that worked both upper and lower limbs
- Aerobic exercises, including fast-walking practice with changes in pace and direction.
Participants were 40 percent less likely to fall and one-third less likely to suffer a fall-related injury.
- The Otago Exercise Program – An individually tailored program where a physical therapist or nurse visited each participant four times at home for hour-long sessions over the first two months, followed by a booster session at six months.
- Strengthening exercises for lower leg muscle groups using ankle cuff weights
- Balance and stability exercises such as standing with one foot in front of the other and walking on the toes
- Active range of motion exercises such as neck rotation and hip and knee extensions
Those who participated saw their fall rate reduced by 35 percent, and the program was equally effective for men and women. Participants age 80 and older who had fallen in the previous year showed the greatest benefit.
- A Matter of Balance – A program designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults who are concerned about falls or have sustained them in the past and are interested in improving flexibility, balance and strength.
- View falls as controllable
- Set goals for increasing activity
- Make changes to reduce fall risks at home
- Exercise to increase strength and balance
After completing the program, participants demonstrated significant improvements in their levels of falls management, falls control, exercise and social limitations with regard to concerns about falling