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Preventing Falls in the Elderly
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By andrewlasher


Preventing Falls in the Elderly

by K.R. Tremblay Jr., and C.E. Barber1 (12/05)

Quick Facts...

  • The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than for men.

  • Two-thirds of those who experience a fall will fall again within six months.

  • A decrease in bone density contributes to falls and resultant injuries.

  • Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility.

  • At least one-third of all falls in the elderly involve environmental hazards in the home.

Causes and Prevention

The causes of falls are known as risk factors. Although no single risk factor causes all falls, the greater the number of risk factors to which an individual is exposed, the greater the probability of a fall and the more likely the results of the fall will threaten the person's independence.

Many of these risk factors are preventable. As obvious as it may sound, a lack of knowledge about risk factors and how to prevent them contributes to many falls. Some people believe that falls are a normal part of aging, and as such are not preventable. Lack of knowledge leads to lack of preventive action, resulting in falls.


  • The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than men.

  • Annually, falls are reported by one-third of all people 65 and older.

  • Two-thirds of those who fall will fall again within six months.

  • Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 or over.

  • Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year. The elderly account for seventy-five percent of deaths from falls.

  • More than half of all fatal falls involve people 75 or over, only 4 percent of the total population.

  • Among people 65 to 69, one out of every 200 falls results in a hip fracture, and among those 85 or over, one fall in 10 results in a hip fracture.

  • One-fourth of those who fracture a hip die within six months of the injury.

  • The most profound effect of falling is the loss of independent functioning. Twenty-five percent of those who fracture a hip require life-long nursing care. About 50 percent of the elderly who sustain a fall-related injury will be discharged to a nursing home rather than return home.

  • Most falls do not result in serious injury. However, there is often a psychological impact. Approximately 25 percent of community-dwelling people 75 or over unnecessarily restrict their activities because of fear of falling.

  • The majority of the lifetime cost of injury for people 65 or over can be attributed to falls.

Web Sites


Aid Association for Lutherans. (1998). Home sweet home: How to help older adults live independently. Appleton, WI: Aid Association for Lutherans.

American Association for Retired Persons. (1998). Home safe home: How to prevent falls in the home. Washington, DC: American Association for Retired Persons.

Covington, G.A., & Hannah, B. (1997). Access by design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Fuller, G. (2000). Falls in the elderly. American Family Physician, 61, 2159-2168.

Leibrock, C. (2000). Design details for health. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

National Institute on Aging. (1992). Preventing falls and fractures. Washington, DC: National Institute on Aging.

Sadovsky, R. (Ed.). (1999). Conditions of aging. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

Steinweg, K. (1997). The changing approach to falls in the elderly. American Family Physician, 56, 1815-1822.

Steinweg, K. (1997). Decreasing your risks of falls. American Family Physician, 56, 1823.

Studenski, S., & Rigler, S. (1996). Clinical overview of instability in the elderly. Clinical Geriatrics Medicine, 12, 679-688.

Tideiksaar, R (1997). Falling in old age: Prevention and management. New York: Springer.

Tremblay, K., & Kreul-Froseth, S. (2003). Safe housing for the elderly. Fort Collins: Colorado State University Extension.

U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (1998). Home safety checklist for older consumers. Washington, DC: U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

1 K.R. Tremblay Jr., Colorado State University Extension housing specialist and professor, design and merchandising; C.E. Barber, former Colorado State University professor, human development and family studies. 5/96. Reviewed 12/05.

By rjmkm
July 8, 2011 at 03:43pm
I found the Senior Linkage Line to be very helpful in answering my questions. Senior LinkAge Line® -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Help is closer than you think! 1-800-333-2433 Senior LinkAge Line® is the Minnesota Board on Aging’s free statewide information and assistance service. The Senior LinkAge Line® offers no fee based service and is provided by 7-Area Agencies on Aging that cover all 87 counties of Minnesota and helps connect you to local services. Senior Linkage Line® not only helps you connect to services in your community, but also provides the actual assistance to help you get the information and personalized help you need to make good decisions. This includes providing face to face help to you in your home and community. Senior LinkAge Line is the State Health Insurance and Assistance Program, (SHIP). SHIP services in the community are often provided by State certified volunteer counselors. For more information about volunteering send an email to Marjori at mbottila@ardc.org or call 1-800-232-0707X538. With a single call, people can find particular services near them or get help evaluating their situation to determine what type of services are available and helpful Senior LinkAge Line® areas of expertise are: o Medicare o Health Insurance Counseling o Help applying for Medical Assistance and Medicare options o Long term Care Planning Options o Grand Parents Raising Grand children o Volunteering o Prescription drug expense Assistance for Minnesotans of any age o Forms Assistance o Long term Care Insurance/Long term Care Partnership o Caregiver planning and support o Transitional Consultation Specialists are knowledgeable and can refer to other resources in the community: o Financial Assistance o Housing o Long Term Care Ombudsman o Indian Elder Program o Caregiver Support o Volunteering o Hospice o In-home repair services o Home care o Snow / Lawn Care o Employment o Legal Assistance o Meal delivery and Nutrition o Area Agencies on Aging nationwide o Transportation Specialists are trained health and human service professionals and are certified through the Institute for Geriatric Social Work at Boston University. They offer objective, neutral information about senior service and housing options. The Senior LinkAge Line® (1-800-333-2433) is answered from 8:00AM to 4:30PM weekdays, and messages can be left after hours, 24 hours a day. TDD/TTY users call the Minnesota Relay Service at 7-1-1. Non- or limited-English speaking callers can call the Senior LinkAge Line® which uses interpreters through Language Line Services. Information about senior services can be found online at www.minnesotahelp.info®
By rjmkm
July 18, 2011 at 01:28pm
I found this web site very interesting on older people with foot pain. Effectiveness of a multifaceted podiatry intervention to prevent falls in community dwelling older people with disabling foot pain: randomised controlled trial http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d3411.full
By judy
August 18, 2011 at 01:26pm
I just purchased a Trifold ramp for my daughter who is in a wheel chair.We had trouble getting her in and out of our camper while camping this summer until I found the Trifold ramp. It folds up and can be stored away very easily. Judy R.
By rjkmk
August 23, 2011 at 03:46pm
I just purchased a rubber threshold for my fathers patio door. He is 72 years old and had trouble lifting his feet up over the patio door lip. Now he is able to walk right in without any problem. Thanks to Ramps and More for coming up with this solution. Jean
By hss
August 24, 2011 at 03:19pm
Very nice web site Susan
By juu
August 25, 2011 at 12:53pm
I thought this was very interesting when reading? One fourth of elderly persons who sustain a hip fracture die within six months of the injury. More than 50 percent of older patients who survive hip fractures are discharged to a nursing home, and nearly one half of these patients are still in a nursing home one year later.18 Hip fracture survivors experience a 10 to 15 percent decrease in life expectancy and a meaningful decline in overall quality of life. Most falls do not end in death or result in significant physical injury. However, the psychologic impact of a fall or near fall often results in a fear of falling and increasing self-restriction of activities. The fear of future falls and subsequent institutionalization often leads to dependence and increasing immobility, followed by functional deficits and a greater risk of falling. J.J.
By jj
August 31, 2011 at 04:49pm
CDC Falls Prevention Pilots The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is finishing up four state pilot projects designed to test the best ways to implement evidence-based falls prevention programs. Initial lessons learned point to the value of state health departments and coalitions. Download the presentation
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