The word “fall” might as well be grouped with all of those other four letter words as far as I’m concerned. Nothing good comes from falls, and they are more common than most of us would like to admit. If I were to ask for a show of hands for everyone who has taken at least one tumble over the last few years, I know that my hand would be up, and I’m guessing that yours would be as well. If you were blessed with cat-like reflexes and somehow always find a way to land on your feet, the rest of us are envious!
During our younger years, falls are often the result of being in a hurry and not paying attention to our surroundings. These falls are a source of embarrassment, and even joking from anyone who was there to witness it. Thankfully, these rarely lead to any significant injuries. As we age, changes in our bodies can affect our balance and weakened bones from osteoporosis make the consequences of falls much more severe.
Let’s take a look at some facts regarding falls published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The resounding theme is that falls are common, and falls are dangerous.
1 in 3 Americans age 65 and older fall each year, and that number rises to 1 in 2 for Americans age 80 and older
Each year, falls cause 2.8 million injuries, 800,000 hospitalizations, and 27,000 deaths
Approximately 5-10% of falls lead to a significant injury, which could be a broken bone, head injury, or major laceration (cut)
Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency department for an injury following a fall
Every 19 minutes an older adult dies from injuries sustained during a fall
The total cost to treat fall-related injuries exceeds $34 billion each year
It is painfully clear that falls are a serious problem, particularly for those with fragile bones. Not only do falls cause painful injuries, but they also threaten our independence and quality of life. Even just the fear of falling is enough to stop people from participating in activities and social interactions they once enjoyed. Over time, this can lead to muscle weakness, depression and isolation. One study found that due to the fear of falling, 75% of older adults moderately or severely restricted their day-to-day activities. A separate study found that over 80% of older women would prefer death over a fall leading to a hip fracture and placement in a nursing home.
My next several posts will focus on why we are more likely to fall as we age, and strategies for minimizing this risk. My goal is for all of you to remain active and engaged in all of the activities that you enjoy… and most importantly, UPRIGHT!