A simple thing can change your life—like tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor. If you fall, you could break a bone, like thousands of older men and women do each year. A broken bone might not sound awful. But, for older people, a break can be the start of more serious problems.
Many things can cause a fall. Your eyesight, hearing, and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when you were younger. Diabetes, heart disease, or problems with your thyroid, nerves, feet, or blood vessels can affect your balance. Some medicines can cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy, making you more likely to fall.
But don't let a fear of falling keep you from being active. Doing things like getting together with friends, gardening, walking, or going to the local senior center helps you stay healthy. The good news is that there are simple ways you can prevent most falls.
If you take care of your overall health, you may be able to lower your chances of falling. Most of the time, falls and accidents don't "just happen." Here are a few hints that will help you avoid falls and broken bones:
Always tell your doctor if you have fallen since your last checkup—even if you aren't hurt when you fall.
Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones weak and more likely to break. Many people think osteoporosis is only a problem for women, but it can also affect older men. For people with osteoporosis, even a minor fall may be dangerous. Talk to your doctor about whether you have osteoporosis.
There are many changes you can make to your home that will help you avoid falls and ensure your safety.
Your Own Medical Alarm
Think about getting a home-monitoring system. Usually, you wear a button on a chain around your neck. If you fall or need emergency help, you push the button to alert the service. You can find local “medical alarm” services in your yellow pages. Most medical insurance companies and Medicare do not cover home-monitoring systems. Be sure to ask about costs.
Many State and local governments have education and/or home modification programs to help older people prevent falls. Check with your local health department, senior affairs office, or area agency on aging to see if there is a program near you.
Here are some helpful resources:
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modifications
University of Southern California
Fall Prevention Center of Excellence
3715 McClintock Avenue, Room 228
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191
1899 L Street, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036
Looking for more information about exercise? Check out Go4Life®, at www.nia.nih.gov/Go4LIfe. This exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging has exercises, success stories, and free video and print materials.
For more information on osteoporosis, home safety for people with Alzheimer's disease, or other resources on health and aging, contact:
To sign up for regular email alerts about new publications and other information from the NIA, go to www.nia.nih.gov/health.
Visit www.nihseniorhealth.gov, a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. This website has health and wellness information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use. For example, you can click on a button to make the type larger.
Go4Life is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Publication Date: September 2012
Page Last Updated: October 17, 2013