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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

June 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 citizens.

“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.”


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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."

The National Safety Council is calling on Americans to recognize during National Safety Month the potential fall risks for themselves and the older people in their lives.

These tips can help prevent falls:

• 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 to falls

• Remove tripping hazards (papers, books, clothes, shoes) from stairs and places you walk

• Clean up all spills immediately and keep the floor dry

• 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 tub/shower

• Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors

• Improve lighting in your home, including using a nightlight

• Install handrails and lights on all staircases

• Wear shoes with good support that have non-slip soles

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 messages.

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 to get involved.

Visit to get involved.

About the National Safety Council
Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council,, 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.

•  Connect with National Safety Council: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. YouTube

•  Sun Safety Alliance – Facts About Too Much Sun


About Older Adult Falls

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 and hallways.

■ 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 attention.


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.

>> A flyer on Older Adult Falls is available from the National Safety Council



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