Five Easy Steps Can Help Elders “Know Where Your Feet Are” and Avoid Injury

Directors Bonnie Kantor-Burman, of the Ohio Department of Aging, and Dr. Ted Wymyslo, of the Ohio Department of Health remind Ohioans that Saturday, September 22 is Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Their agencies, along with the Ohio Older Adult Falls Prevention Coalition encourage all Ohioans to use the first day of fall and the entire autumn season to educate themselves and their loved ones about the risk of falls and fall-related injuries that increases as we age.

The theme for the 2012 observance is “Know Where Your Feet Are!”

“Falls represent a critical public health threat to older adults,” said Ted Wymyslo, M.D., director of the Ohio Department of Health. “An older Ohioan falls every two and a half minutes on average, resulting in two deaths per day, two hospitalizations per hour, and an emergency room visit every eight minutes. These preventable injuries cost Ohioans more than $4.8 billion each year. Yet, falls are not a normal part of aging. This myth must be dispelled so older Ohioans can live independent, productive and healthy lives.”

“Your risk for falling goes down the minute you stop being afraid of falling,” said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the Department of Aging. “Living a full and active life free of the fear of falling begins with knowing where your feet are. Individuals who know what their risks factors are and who take active steps to minimize them are less likely to suffer an injury as the result of a fall.”

Aging and public health agencies and advocates encourage all Ohioans to “Know Where Your Feet Are” and follow five easy steps to prevent falls:

  • Increase your physical activity. Simple exercise, like walking or swimming at least 15 minutes a day can help build muscle strength and improve balance, which can prevent falls. Exercise programs like Tai Chi that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.
  • See your eye doctor once each year. Age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, can increase the risk of falling. Early detection is key to minimizing the effects of these conditions.
  • Review your medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medicines you are taking and whether they may cause drowsiness or dizziness. Discuss things you can do to ensure you are taking your medicines safely.
  • Remove environmental hazards. Look around the house for anything that could increase the risk of falls, including poor lighting, loose rugs, slippery floors and unsteady furniture. Remove or modify these hazards.
  • Think, plan and slow down. Many falls are caused by hurrying. Slow down and think through the task you are performing. Be mindful of possible falls risks and act accordingly.

Individuals and families also can contact their area agency on aging or local health department to learn about available trainings and resources designed to reduce the risk of falls or go to Falls Among Older Adults. Call toll-free 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the area agency on aging serving your community. More information on local health departments can be found on the ODH website at

Facts about Falls and Older Ohioans:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of adults age 65 and older living in the community fall each year.
  • Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma in older adults.
  • An older adult falls in Ohio every 2.5 minutes on average, resulting in two deaths each day, two hospitalizations each hour and an emergency department visit every eight minutes.
  • Older adults account for a disproportionate share of fall-related injuries. While Ohioans age 65 and older make up 13.7 percent of our population, they account for more than 80 percent of fatal falls.
  • According to the Ohio Department of Health, fatal fall rates increased 125 percent from 2000 to 2009.
  • The total estimated annual cost of fatal falls in Ohio is $646 million, while non-fatal, hospital-admitted falls cost more than $4.2 billion annually.
  • More than half of all older adults who live in residential care facilities or nursing homes will fall each year.
  • Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.
  • The risk of falling increases significantly after age 75.
  • Falls account for more than 90 percent of all accidental hip fractures.
  • Fall-related emergency room-visit and inpatient hospitalization rates are higher for falls than all other injuries combined.
  • For about 1 in 3 older Ohioans, falls lead to injuries that resulted in a doctor visit or restricted activity.
  • The causes of falls vary, with contributing factors including lack of strength in the lower extremities, the use of four or more medications, reduced vision, chronic health problems and unsafe home conditions.
  • Many people who fall, even those who are not injured, may develop a fear of falling, leading them to limit their activities, which in turn, may increase their risk for falls.
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