Falls are the number one cause of injury, hospital visits and death from an injury among people age 65 and older.

Each year 1 out of 3 older adults will experience a fall.

Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes. Of those who fall, 20 to 30 percent suffer moderate to severe injuries that reduce mobility and independence and increase the risk of premature death. Twenty percent of older people who break a hip from falling die within a year of their injury.

Falls are not inevitable.

According to the National Safety Council, most falls are preventable. Older adults are more prone to become the victim of falls and the resulting injuries can diminish the ability to lead active, independent lives. Risk factors include physical hazards in the environment, age-related issues and health conditions. Reduce your risk and find fall hazards in your workplace and home to prevent injuries and keep others safe round the clock.

Falls are by far the leading unintentional injury, accounting for more than 8.7 million emergency room visits each year in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these tips can greatly help older adults prevent falls, but are beneficial to those of all ages.

Stay active: Chances of falling can be reduced by improving strength and balance. Examples of activities include brisk walking, tai chi and yoga. Research has shown that fall reduction programs that include exercise are most effective for reducing the risk of falls. It is often assumed that these programs are effective because they improve physical performance, such as greater muscle strength and balance.

A team of researchers at the University of British Columbia propose a different explanation for the effectiveness of exercise. They hypothesize that the improved cognitive function that can result from exercise has a greater role in falls prevention than do balance and strength.

Fall-proof your home: This includes removing all tripping hazards; extension cords, throw rugs and items that interfere with where you walk are hazardous. Assistive devices, such as hand rails in the bathroom, can be a life saver, as well. This time of year, be cautious of wet leaves on the sidewalk or driveway.

Review your medications: Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medications you take both prescription and over-the-counter. Some medications or combination of medicines can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can potentially lead to a fall.

Check your vision: It’s best to have your vision checked at least once a year to make sure you have the best prescription for your glasses. Poor vision greatly increases your risk of falling.

The growth in the aging population, the desire of mature adults to remain independent, and the rising cost of health care and long-term care make preventing and reducing falls of paramount importance in promoting healthy aging. My hope in providing this information is that older adults will have fewer falls and fall related injuries, thus maximizing their independence and quality of life.

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of The Dale Association, a Lockport-based non-profit organization that provides senior, mental health, in-home care, caregiver support services and enrichment activities for adults. For more information, call 433-1937. or visit www.daleassociation.com.

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