Senior citizens make up 13% of the total United States population. As more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, that number is expected to grow. The “oldest old” — those aged 85 and over — are the most rapidly growing elderly age group. It is expected the oldest old will number 19 million in the United States by 2050. That would make them 24 percent of elderly Americans and 5 percent of all Americans.
Along with that growth comes a growing risk of senior falls. In 2011, over 59,000 California seniors suffered a fall requiring a visit to an emergency room, according to the Sacramento Bee. More than 60% of individuals who fall will fall again within six months.
The California Department of Public Health estimates that the number of seniors aged 85 or older who died as a result of a fall more than doubled in the last decade.
Why this increase? Balance declines with age. Many factors contribute toward making the older adult susceptible to falls. These include: osteoporosis, sudden decrease in blood pressure, loss of muscle strength, stroke, arthritis, illness, diabetes and medications that cause dizziness. In addition, home safety hazards such as stairs and throw rugs are cited as issues.
Don’t let a fear of falling keep you from being active. Doing things like getting together with friends, gardening, walking, or going to the local senior center are also important for staying healthy. The good news is that there are simple ways to prevent most falls.
By taking care of your overall health, you may be able to lower your chances of falling.
Other ways to reduce your fall risk include:
- Have a bone mineral density test. If your bones are weak, ask your doctor to tell you how to make them stronger. Mild weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis.
- Stay physically active. Follow a simple and consistent exercise program. Regular exercise makes you stronger and improves muscles. It also helps keep your joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible.
- Make an appointment to have your eyes and hearing checked. Small changes can increase your risk of falling without your knowing. If you do get new glasses, take time to get used to them. If you have a hearing aid, make sure you wear it.
- Find out about the side effects of any medicine you take. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
- Get enough sleep. Being sleepy, makes you more likely to fall.
- Stand up slowly after eating, lying down, or sitting. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel faint.
- Use a cane, walking stick, or walker to help you feel steadier when you walk. This is very important when you’re walking in areas you don’t know well or in places where the walkways are uneven.
- Wear rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes that fully support your feet.
- Remove throw rugs in your home as they can be a tripping hazard.
- Make your bathroom safe by installing grab bars around the tub and beside the toilet and using non-slip mats.
- Request a home safety inspection from your care coordinator at Help at Home Senior Care.
Above all, take precautions, and remain as active as possible. Preventing falls will keep you healthier longer