6 Age-Related Changes That Increase Senior Fall Risk and What to Do About Them

senior fall risk

Seniors are at high risk for serious falls

The gradual physical changes of aging add up to increased fall risk for older adults.

In fact, the CDC says that people aged 65+ have a greater than 25% chance of falling. And if someone falls once, their chance of falling again doubles, meaning there’s over 50% chance of a second fall.

This is serious because falls are a leading cause of lost independence and ability. Seniors often aren’t able to recover fully from the trauma, their overall health declines, and their care needs increase significantly.

We explain the top 6 age-related changes that increase senior fall risk, typical fall-related injuries, and share 6 ways to reduce fall risk.

 

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6 age-related changes that increase senior fall risk

1. Decreased strength
Muscle loss starts very early, around age 30. In older adults, less muscle means less strength and weaker bones.

2. Weaker sense of balance
Many body systems work together to keep us standing upright. Age-related changes and medication side effects can make it more difficult for seniors to stay balanced.

3. Declining eyesight
Vision helps us keep our balance and avoid obstacles. As vision worsens, so does the ability to stay upright and clearly see what’s in our path.

4. Loss of flexibility
Age and health conditions make seniors less flexible, especially in hips and ankles. This stiffness increases the likelihood of falling.

5. Decreased endurance
Not being able to endure physical activity like standing or walking for a reasonable amount of time increases fall risk.

6. Declining ability and desire to walk
Continuing to walk will improve strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance for older adults.

However, many seniors become less active and fall into a negative cycle where less activity leads to less strength and balance. That leads to even less activity as their physical abilities keep declining.

 

Falls cause serious injuries in seniors

In older adults, falls typically cause hip fractures and head injuries. They’re also the leading cause of death from injury, often from traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Even if an injury isn’t life threatening, falls have harsh long-term consequences for older adults because their bodies usually aren’t able to recover fully.

They can end up needing extended stays in nursing homes or assisted living facilities or a significant amount of in-home help.

Additional serious effects of falling:

  • Every year, 3 million seniors are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries
  • 1 in 5 falls causes a serious injury like broken bones or a head injury
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling
  • In 2015, the total medical costs for falls was over $50 billion – and $12.5 billion of that was paid out of pocket

 

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6 ways to reduce senior fall risk

  1. Make the home safer by decluttering key areas, improving lighting, and making safety updates
  2. Encourage safe, regular exercise to build strength, balance, and flexibility
  3. Get regular check-ups from the doctor and eye doctor to catch problems early
  4. Treat or manage vision problems
  5. Use properly-fitted walkers and canes correctly
  6. Wear comfortable, supportive, properly-fitted shoes and slippers with non-slip soles

 

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Adult Home Health Care


2 Comments

  • Reply August 28, 2020

    Maggie

    As an ex-carer of the elderly, I am appalled at some of the in-safe footwear I have seen on senior citizens.
    Shoes with too big a heal, shoes that are too tight, too lose, slippers that are so tight they squash the persons toes, cause bunions and other problems.
    If the shoes/slippers are too tight it’s very hard to get them off and on; this isn’t acceptable especially for the carers who will have to spend that extra time forcing the shoes or slippers on.
    Most of the elderly didn’t complain but it really hurt my hands and fingers.
    Relatives need to keep a keen eye on their seniors footwear.
    On a lot of occasions they were totally oblivious to seniors bad fitting footwear.

    • Reply August 28, 2020

      DailyCaring

      Excellent point! Thanks for sharing. We’ve updated the article to include this important info.

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