Preventing Falls Among Older Adults
Signs of an Increased Fall Risk
These behaviors can be signs that you or a loved one are at an increased risk of falling.
- Difficulty getting up from the sofa or a soft chair.
- Using countertops for balance in the kitchen or bathroom.
- Not being able to balance on one leg for at least five seconds (2).
Steps to Reduce Falls
There are six easy ways to reduce the risk of falls (1):
- Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise improves strength and balance, as well as coordination. Your local Area Agency on Aging or local health department may offer exercise and falls prevention classes near you.
- Talk to your health care provider. Ask your doctor if you are at risk of falling. It's also important that you tell your doctor if you've fallen before.
- Have your health care provider review your medicines. Some medicines or combinations of medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and cause you to fall.
- Have your vision and hearing checked. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Poor vision can increase your chance of falling. It's also important that you can hear properly, as your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
- Make your home safer. Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs and clutter in walkways as well as books and papers from stairs. Make sure stair railings are secure. Install grab bars next to your toilet and shower. Replace dim or non functioning light bulbs with long lasting LEDs.
- Talk to your family members. Ask your family for their help and support in taking simple steps to stay safe and keep you safe. Falls aren't just a seniors' issue.
Fall Prevention Classes
Stepping On program
Stepping On is a 7-week program that teaches older adults to reduce their risk of falling and doing simple exercises to increase their strength and balance. National research shows the program works: falls among the participants were reduced by 31%.
“I would encourage others to take the class. The instructors made everyone feel comfortable and I never felt like an old, decrepit person there. The classes were not only informative and helpful, they were fun, too.”
“Charley” Jones, participant in the Stepping On program
To find a Stepping On program near you, please call one of the following agencies or visit livingwell.utah.gov.
Tai Chi for Arthritis
Join the class where you’ll learn and practice this ancient exercise consisting of slow, relaxed movements to prevent falls and to improve your body and life. To find a class call 1-888-222-2542 or visit livingwell.utah.gov.
Otago is an evidenced-based home exercise program. It is a muscle strengthening and balance retraining program that can reduce falls. The program includes 17 strength and balance exercises.
The benfits of taking Otago include:
- Maintain your confidence and independence
- Improve your balance and leg strength
- Carry out daily exercises without fear of falling
- Reduce the number of falls and the number of injuries from falls
- Effective in reducing falls and injuries among adults
To find a class call 1-888-222-2542 or visit livingwell.utah.gov.
There are many evidence-based lifestyle change programs that can help older adults live healthy, independent lives. Referring participants into other exercise-based programs, such as Enhance Fitness or Walk With Ease, can greatly improve their strength and balance and help prevent falls. A full list of evidence-based lifestyle change courses taught in Utah can be found at health.utah.gov/arthritis/workshop_search.
Older adults who have fallen in the past may experience symptoms of an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury or TBI. In fact, the majority of TBIs in Utah are due to a fall. Ask your workshop participants if they have ever fallen, and if so, if they have ever hit their head as a result. If they answer yes, they may very well have symptoms of a TBI, such as memory loss, dizziness, headaches, etc., and need further help. The state's TBI Fund provides help to TBI survivors and their families.
- National Council on Aging
- Vellas, B., Wayne, S., Romero, L., Baumgartner, R., et al. (1997). One-leg balance is an important predictor of injurious falls in older persons. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 45, 735-738.