Falling, breaking a hip and ending up in a nursing home – that’s one of the top 10 fears for older adults.
So what do you know about falls? Here are some facts to know about falls from StopFalls.org, the website of the Stop Falls Center of Excellence based in California:
- Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths, unintentional injuries and hospital admissions for trauma for older adults.
- For the frail “old old,” falls usually occur inside the home.
- For active younger seniors, the “young old,” falls are generally outdoors and occur with physical activity such as gardening or walking.
- 24% of falls happen outdoors near the home.
- 23% of falls occur outdoors away from home
You can get the outdoor safety audit to check for potential falls around your yard or garden right here by signing up to get the blog each week. See the box to the right of this blog post. It’s free!
But is there anything you can do about preventing falls away from home? These falls often occur due to:
- Steps or bumps which are not marked or lighted
- Poorly maintained walkways such as broken sidewalks or walks that have settled in relation to a curb, creating a tripping hazard
- Poor lighting overall
- Tree wells in public areas or private commercial areas
- Debris from trees or plants on the walking surface
In advance of Fall Prevention Week, which starts September 23, think about getting together with a few of your neighbors and conducting a Pedestrian Walkability Audit. AARP has a Create the Good program designed to connect people and tools or project for community betterment.
The AARP Sidewalks and Streets Survey provides a sample survey, instructions for organizing a walkability audit, and suggestions for how to follow up to change things in the community based on your results.
You can evaluate walking surfaces, streets-and-sidewalk intersections, crosswalk controls ifyour community has them, signage for wayfinding, even the impact of trees, big planters and streetside parking on visibility. One further suggestion from StopFalls.org is to conduct a survey at night as well as in daylight to gauge the impact of night lighting on visibility when the walker’s eyes are aging.
Don't just sit and worry about falling yourself or having a parent fall. One big step in Elderyarding® is to plan for safety. Open your eyes. Evaluate what you see in your yard and in your community. Ask your neighbors to help. Now's the time to take serious steps to reduce the 47% of falls that happen outside.