Age Increases Your Risk for Falls and
What You Can Do About It
Although anyone can fall, as you age falls become
more common and more serious. The good news is that you do
not need to let the fear of falling rule your life. With some
medical management, physical activity and common sense you
can help yourself avoid falls and stay independent longer.
Normal aging and risk for falls
You are more likely to fall as you age because
of normal, age-related physical changes and medical conditions
- and the drugs that you take for those medical conditions.
As you age, time takes its toll on your body and you may find
yourself taking more medications or experiencing some limitations
in your mobility. While the changes are unique to you, many
aging changes are common and put you at higher risk.
- Poor eyesight. You may not see or hear
as well which affects your coordination and balance.
- Reduced reaction time. The nerves that
carry information from your brain to your muscles can deteriorate
slowing your reaction time and your ability to move away
from obstacles quickly enough or avoid an ice patch on the
- Decline in muscle strength. Normal decline
in your muscle strength and joint flexibility can change
how easily you stand up, walk or get out of chairs.
- Limited movement. If you do not regularly
exercise, changes occurring with the aging process can be
What you can do to help prevent falling
Everyone gets older but there are some things you can do
to help reduce the risk of falling. Just by following these
several things you increase your chances for avoiding falls
and remaining independent.
- Keep moving. Ask your doctor for a general
exercise program that may include walking or other group
exercises such as water workouts in a pool. Tai chi, a gentle
exercise, has been proven very effective in reducing your
risk for falls.
- Follow your doctor's recommendation.
Exercises your doctor recommends can improve balance, strength,
coordination and flexibility. Your doctor may also have
referred the physical therapist to your home to give you
an individual exercise program to improve your balance,
muscle strength and gait (how you take steps).
- Use medical equipment when appropriate.
Your doctor may also recommend a cane or walker to ensure
that you are balanced when you are moving. The secret to
reducing your risk for falls is moving more and moving safely.
You are not helping yourself by moving less.
- Make your home safer. Check your house
for hazards. You may need to make some compromises to make
it safer but it's worth it.
- Stay in touch. If you live alone, ask
someone to check on you once daily, or consider paying for
an emergency monitoring device. These systems usually have
three components: a small radio transmitter (a help button
carried or worn by the user); a console connected to the
user's telephone; and an emergency response center that
monitors calls. When emergency help (medical, fire, or police)
is needed, the PERS user presses the transmitter's help
button. It sends a radio signal to the console. The console
automatically dials one or more pre-selected emergency telephone
numbers. Most systems can dial out even if the phone is
in use or off the hook. Most systems are programmed to telephone
an emergency response center where the caller is identified.
The center will try to determine the nature of the emergency.
Center staff also may review your medical history and check
to see who should be notified.