Deadly Falls by Seniors Up 112% Since 1999; Just One
of Senior Concerns in National Safety Month
National Safety Council highlights injury and death
by falling, drug poisoning, vehicle crashes
9, 2014 - Fatal falls among seniors age 65 and older have risen 112
percent since 1999. More than 21,600 deaths in 2010 were attributed to
falls among this age group, accounting for eight out of every 10 fatal
falls in the United States. But injury from falls is just one of the
safety issues being stressed this month by the National Safety Council
during National Safety Month and several of them are critical to senior
“Dramatic events like homicides and natural
disasters headline the news every night,” said Deborah Hersman, NSC
president and CEO. “Highlighting that hundreds of people are dying each
day from completely preventable causes – that is what National Safety
Month is all about.”
Unintentional injuries are the 5th leading cause of
death, exceeded only by heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower
respiratory diseases, according to Injury Facts 2014 edition, a
publication of the National Safety Council.
The top three causes of unintentional injury in the
U.S. are poisoning, motor vehicle crashes and falls. An estimated 36,900
deaths in 2012 were due to poisoning, with a large majority of these
attributed to the recent epidemic of
prescription drug abuse; 45 people die every day from unintentional
overdoses on prescription pain relievers.
According to 2012 estimates, motor vehicle crashes
resulted in 36,300 deaths, with 26% of all crashes estimated to involve
cell phone use while driving. Seniors are frequent victims in all
three of these sources of unintentional injury.
But the biggest danger for seniors is falling.
Approximately 27,800 deaths in 2012 can be attributed to
falls, with seven out of ten of these deaths affecting adults over
74 years of age.
"For older adults, falls and the resulting injuries
can diminish their ability to lead active, independent lives," said
Deborah Hersman, NSC president and CEO.
"Identifying potential fall hazards and making
changes to improve your strength, balance and vision can help reduce
your risk of a fall at any age."
• Stay active and exercise to increase core
strength and balance
• Review medications and be aware of those with
side effects that can make you drowsy or lightheaded
• Get your vision checked, as poor vision can lead
• Remove tripping hazards (papers, books, clothes,
shoes) from stairs and places you walk
• Clean up all spills immediately and keep the
• Keep frequently used items in cabinets you can
reach easily without using a step stool
• Install grab bars next to your toilet and in your
• Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower
• Improve lighting in your home, including using a
• Install handrails and lights on all staircases
• Wear shoes with good support that have non-slip
National Safety Month encourages safe behaviors to
prevent the leading causes of unintentional injuries and deaths. The
Council's National Safety Month campaign "Safety: it takes all of us"
includes free downloadable materials to help spread important safety
The purpose of National Safety Month is to
encourage safe behaviors to prevent the leading causes of injuries and
deaths. The Council’s National Safety Month campaign includes free
downloadable materials to help spread important safety messages. Visit
nsc.org/nsm to get involved.
About the National Safety Council Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety
nsc.org, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives
by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and
on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. NSC
advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government
agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make
the most impact – distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety,
prescription drug overdoses and Safe Communities. Safety+Health
magazine, the Council's flagship publication, is a leading source of
occupational safety and health information.
Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older
falls. Falls can lead to moderate to severe injuries, such
as hip fractures and head traumas, and are the leading cause
of injury death among those age 65 and older. As a caregiver
for an older adult, it is necessary to understand the
leading risks for falls and take measures to help keep your
loved ones safe.
Environment – Most falls happen in
homes and are entirely preventable. Simple changes in
lighting, housekeeping and furniture arrangement can make
older adults less susceptible to falling in their homes.
■ All rooms in older adults’ homes should
be well-lit. Put in brighter light bulbs, add lighting to
dark areas and install night-lights in bedrooms, bathrooms
■ Clutter and tripping hazards can cause
a person of any age to fall. Make sure all pathways are
clear and clean.
■ Arrange furniture to ensure that there
is always a clear pathway to enter and exit a room.
■ Many falls occur on stairs and steps.
All stairwells should be well-lit, clear of all objects and
have handrails on both sides.
Health – Older adults with hip or
bone weakness, arthritis, osteoporosis and blood pressure
fluctuation are more prone for falls. Those suffering from
neurological conditions, Parkinson’s disease, multiple
sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease are at an increased risk
for falling as well.
■ Have a doctor assess an older adult’s
risk of falling and suggest changes in an older adult’s
medications or lifestyle to reduce the risk of falling.
■ Let doctors know about past falls. A
fall can be a sign of a new medical problem that needs
Medication – Many medications have
side effects that can affect an older adult’s coordination
and balance or cause dizziness, confusion or sleepiness.
■ Ask a doctor or pharmacist to review
all medications, including prescriptions, over-the-counter
medicines, and vitamins and minerals.
■ Have an up-to-date list of all
medications and provide it to doctors during visits.
■ Make sure medications are properly
labeled and there are clear instructions for usage.
Habits – Oftentimes, older adults
fear that exercise may lead to a fall, but regular physical
activity is the first line of defense against falls and
fractures. Physical activity strengthens muscles and
increases flexibility and balance.
■ Many communities offer group exercise
classes for older adults, such as water aerobics and tai
chi, which uses slow, flowing movements to help relax and
coordinate the mind and body. Contact your local community
or senior center for classes.
■ Mild weight-bearing exercise, like
walking or climbing stairs, helps slow bone loss from
osteoporosis and increases muscle strength.
Fear – Many people who fall, even
if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This
fear may cause them to limit their activities, leading to
reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, which in turn
increases their actual risk of falling.
■ Encourage older adults to stay active
and exercise regularly.
■ Doctors can refer older adults to
physical therapists to help improve walking confidence.