Over 65? Your risk of falling is something to start taking seriously
The information on this page should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations.
There will never be consensus on the exact age someone becomes a senior citizen. For the purposes of this article, let’s go with 65. That’s when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says your chances of falling are about 1 in 3, which means it’s a good time to start taking a more deliberate approach to preventing falls.
Let’s call it your “Fall Prevention Strategy.”
We couldn’t possibly provide a comprehensive list of every single risk factor that can lead to a fall. That list is a mile long. Nor can we provide a one-size-fits-all Fall Prevention Strategy. But we can at least get you pointed in the right direction to help prevent a visit to the ER or orthopedic doctor.
Understandably, some factors might not be so easy to prevent. Medical risk factors — those resulting from an impairment, disability, a neurological disorder, or other medical condition — may be the most difficult to avoid. In these cases, you will need to consult with your primary care physician or specialist.
Risks associated with lifestyle choices and environmental factors are easier to control. Identifying a fall risk is a matter of common sense, in many instances:
Slippery bathroom tile
Loose area rugs
But your Fall Prevention Strategy should also take into account some less obvious risks:
Lack of Exercise
This may sound counterintuitive, because sitting in a recliner is such a low-risk activity, but an active pastime such as pickleball or cycling will give your overall health and quality of life a boost. Or maybe an exercise program is your best option. Agility, strength, balance, and coordination can be improved dramatically with an exercise program. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about a program individually tailored to your capabilities and geared toward preventing falls.
An Unhealthy Diet
Exercise won’t do you much good if you’re not supplying your body the nutrients it needs for strong bones and muscle. A licensed dietary nutritionist is a great resource for developing a diet to suit your specific needs.
Cats and dogs would never intentionally harm their owners, but according to the CDC, they actually cause over 80,000 falls a year. Both dogs and cats are tripping hazards. Obedience training may be a consideration if a dog is prone to jump when excited or pull you off balance when leashed.
Minimizing household hazards may involve a little bit of heavy lifting. Changing the layout of a room can make a big difference in keeping walkways wide and clear of obstacles.
Bending down or climbing a step stool can be dangerous as you get older. If you find yourself doing these things often to grab shoes, clothes, dishes, or other frequently-used items, it may be time to evaluate your storage situation.
Grandchildren (or great-grandchildren) have a tendency to leave toys scattered around the house. A dedicated play area will keep these tripping hazards out of the way.
If you catch yourself saying “I’ve been doing it for 40 years. Why change now?” and you’re referring to cleaning the gutters or Jell-O shots, you should probably think twice.
Check out these online resources for more information:
Q&A: Falls and fall prevention (Mayo Clinic)
Falling: Are You Or a Loved One At Risk? (Cleveland Clinic)