Falling is a serious health concern for older adults. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one in four people aged 65 and older fall each year, leading to millions of emergency room visits, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and approximately 30,000 deaths. September is Falls Prevention Month and Falls Prevention Awareness Day is September 23 to raise awareness about this serious national health crisis and offer ways to prevent falls in the older adult population.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCO), falls are not a normal part of aging and are largely preventable. Here are a few simple ways older adults can reduce their risk of falling.
Talk to Your Doctor(s)
Several medications can cause feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness. If you experience either, that is cause for concern and you should contact your doctor immediately to determine if your medication needs to be changed or adjusted if it is determined to be the cause. Low blood pressure, diminished eyesight, and foot pain also increase your risk of falls.
If you frequently experience “tunnel vision” (vision darkens around the edge) or feel unsteady when you stand up, that could be a symptom of postural hypotension, meaning your blood pressure drops dramatically when you go from sitting or lying down to sitting or standing up. Alert your doctor immediately if this happens, even if it is only once in a while.
Get your eyes checked annually or if you experience any sudden changes in your vision. Update your eyewear prescription as needed, even if it is more than once a year.
Exercise can help older adults retain their core strength, and increase joint flexibility and muscle mass for better balance.
Rather than avoid physical activity for fear of falling, older adults greatly benefit from participating in tai chi classes, aqua aerobics, and fitness classes taught by qualified professionals who know how to modify workouts for every ability and show participants how to safely increase their muscle strength and mobility.
Do a Home Safety Check
It’s true that most serious injuries happen at home. Older adults can greatly reduce their risk of falling by keeping floors clear of clutter, installing handrails in their bathrooms, and making sure loose carpeting is tacked down solidly. Get rid of floor mats that slip around easily for those with rubber backing to stay in place better and make sure there is adequate lighting throughout the home.
Year-round Fall Prevention at Golden West
At Golden West, we help Towers residents stay safe from falls all year round, not just for Falls Prevention Month. All of our apartments have smooth even flooring, handrails in the bathrooms, as needed, and plenty of lighting throughout the community. We also have a variety of fitness classes designed to help residents maintain independence while improving their balance. Those offerings include cardio fitness and weight training and seated dance classes. There is also a weekly chair yoga class, tai chi sessions and a balance class specifically to help participants stay safely upright.
As part of the greater Boulder community, our residents also have access to Boulder County’s many senior services to help them prevent falls. The City of Boulder’s Fall Prevention website has many activities scheduled in September to remind older adults to always take precautions to avoid falls and a calendar full of activities to encourage them to get fit and improve their balance through dance classes, presentations on how to improve posture, and more.