Governor Mark Dayton has declared Sept. 22 as Falls Prevention Awareness Day in Minnesota, making Minnesota among 47 states joining the national Falls Free Initiative to raise awareness of falls on the first day of fall, and ways to prevent falls in the older adult population.
This year’s theme, “Preventing Falls — One Step at a Time,” calls on professionals, older adults, caregivers and family members to help prevent falls, which are the leading cause of injuries requiring hospitalization or treatment and injury-related deaths in Minnesota. The vast majority of these injuries occur among older adults.
Older Minnesotans experienced more than 32,000 falls in 2010, causing 690 fatalities and estimated medical costs of more than $275 million, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
“Communities, families and individuals can use many strategies to help prevent falls,” said Don Samuelson, chair of the Minnesota Board on Aging. “Strategies that support and promote increasing physical activity among mid-life and older adults are particularly important.”
Studies show that a combination of interventions can significantly reduce falls among older adults. Experts recommend:
A physical activity regimen with balance, strength training and flexibility components.
Consulting with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment.
Having medications reviewed periodically.
Getting eyes checked annually.
Making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.
Routinely assessing hearing loss, which new research suggests can be a factor in falls.
“Falls are not a normal part of aging, and this day of awareness provides an opportunity to educate older adults and the community at large about how to reduce falls risks,” said (Bonita) Lynn Beattie, vice president of Injury Prevention with the National Council on Aging, leader of the Falls Free Initiative. “We encourage seniors and their families to take proactive steps to prevent falls and stay independent for as long as possible.”
At senior centers and other community-based organizations across the United States, programs like A Matter of Balance, Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance and Stepping On and Otago help older adults gain the strength, improved balance, and confidence to help them live healthier lives and preserve their independence.
Minnesota is part of the national Falls Free Initiative, which includes more than 40 states and 70 national organizations, professional associations and federal agencies across the country dedicated to reducing fall-related injuries and deaths among older adults.
For more information, visit www.ncoa.org/FPAD or www.mnfallsprevention.org.
Information provided by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.