Among people 65 and older, falling is a dangerous reality. Yet a new program has reduced falls among the elderly by 17 percent statewide according to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Steven Albert is Chairman of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Services and says older adults often do not realize the severity of their falling risk.
“Falling is a multifactorial problem. We call it a geriatric syndrome because it has many, many sources—everything from the drugs you take, to the foods you eat, to changes in the brain, changes in the muscle, changes in bone. Those are things from within the body, but there are things outside the body that matter, too, like uneven pavements, ice, stairways and also not being attentive to high-fall risk situations, which we think people can be educated about and that might reduce the risk of falls.”
Lois Shelton, R.N., M.S.N., is the nurse for the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and coordinates the Healthy Steps for Older Adults program statewide. She says the first step to a safer life after 65 is a physician risk-assessment screening, but she also says a number of mechanical measures can be taken to reduce the possibility of falling.
“Footwear, staircases, handrails, grab bars in bathrooms, raised toilet seats, not having throw rugs on the floor, and anything over four medications can increase your risk for falling… But of course staying active, making yourself get to an exercise program in addition to any activity you can do around the house, from cleaning to gardening to dancing.”
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Healthy Steps for Older Adults