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For Release: May 16, 2013 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601

Older Americans Month Focuses on Preventing Falls

Persons Age 65 and Older are at Most Risk of Serious Injuries

The risk of falling increases with age, so it is particularly important for older adults, even those with chronic health conditions or physical limitations, to engage in fall prevention activities. May is Older Americans Month and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Injury Prevention Service is taking this time to build awareness about preventing injuries caused by falls, especially in adults age 65 and older. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries, and can increase the risk of death.

In the United States, one out of every three older adults falls each year; and every 15 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury. Nationally and in Oklahoma, f alls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for those ages 65 and older. In Oklahoma alone, more than 7,000 older adults are hospitalized and 270 die from a fall each year. Hospital charges for acute care alone total nearly $225 million annually.

The adult population of persons aged 65 and older is one of the fastest-growing age groups in America. Oklahoma is home to 517,654 men and women aged 65 and older. This population represents about 14 percent of all Oklahomans and is expected to double in the next 20 years. It is important that older adults stay safe and active, so that they can remain involved in community projects, creative arts, or social outings. Staying safe and active reduces the risk of unintentional injuries, like falls, and produces many other physical and mental health benefits.

As the warmer weather approaches and as Oklahomans are enjoying the new season outside, preventing falls is important to preserving quality of life. Falls often result in the fear of falling again, which causes many people to limit their activity and reduce their sense of independence. However, most fall injuries happen in predictable, preventable ways. The OSDH offers these tips to prevent falls during the summer months:

  • Wear supportive footwear with nonskid soles indoors and outdoors. No slip-ons.
  • Take care when walking on slippery, wet surfaces. Wet grass or a sidewalk covered with wet leaves can be dangerous.
  • Keep pathways free of outdoor furniture and garden hoses.
  • Put garden tools away when not in use.
  • Watch for uneven sidewalks or surfaces.
  • Use extra caution when using ladders, step stools, and other platforms.
  • Be mindful of pets that may cross your path and cause you to trip.
  • Use sunglasses or take a moment to let your eyes adjust to the sunlight before walking outside.
  • Don’t get overheated. Getting dizzy or too tired from too long in the sun may cause a loss of balance.

The Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance program has been proven to reduce the risk of falls. In Oklahoma, many individuals have been trained as Tai Chi instructors and teach Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance classes around the state to older adults. This exercise program focuses on improving functional abilities, such as balance and physical function, to reduce fall-related risks and frequency of falls. Oklahoma seniors are invited to join a local Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance class. To receive more information on classes and how to prevent falls, contact the OSDH Injury Prevention Service at (405) 271-3430 or visit http://falls.health.ok.gov. For more information on Older Americans Month, visit http://www.olderamericansmonth.acl.gov/.

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