Report: U.S. Needs to Focus on Fall Prevention for Seniors

The United States healthcare system needs to make fall prevention among seniors a major priority, according to experts at this year’s National Council on Aging (NCOA) Falls Prevention Summit.

The country’s original Falls Free National Action Plan is now 10 years old, and more than 100 attendees at the Summit outlined their recommendations for the changes they believe should be made.

The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed sharply escalating mortality rates from falls.

The CDC said that in 2000, 38.2 out of 100,000 males aged 65 years or older died from injuries sustained in unintentional falls. By 2013, that number had jumped to 67.9 out of 100,000 males in that age group.

In 2000, 24.6 out of 100,000 females aged 65 years or older died from unintentional falls. By 2013, the number of deaths had climbed to 49.1.

The CDC also reported that by 2020, the financial cost of such falls could reach $59.6 billion.

Kathleen Cameron, senior director of the NCOA National Falls Prevention Resource Center, said in a news announcement, “These numbers show that it’s imperative for us to address falls as a society. While the National Action plan continues to be relevant today, we have 10 years of research, plus clinical and community activity that have changed what we know and understand about preventing falls. We need to incorporate new, proven strategies to reduce falls, which can positively impact older adults’ quality of life and independence.”

Among the experts’ recommendations to come from the Summit:

-- Increase fall prevention assessments for seniors to determine their fall risk.

-- Strengthen the connections between at-risk seniors and falls prevention programs in their communities.

-- Increase funding and falls-prevention initiatives via public and private financial support.

-- Improve safety at home and in other community environments that seniors visit to reduce the risks of falling.

-- Increase physical activity levels in older adults; emphasize wellness and staying active later in life.

-- Improve public education and awareness of falls and how they can be prevented.

NCOA President/CEO James Firman said, “This summit was a unique opportunity to work together to set goals and priorities for falls prevention nationwide. It is also the time for all of us -- government agencies, philanthropic organizations, local coalition members, even private industry – to commit to the health of the aging population in America. All of us need to take action.”

The news announcement said NCOA would make the final action plan available on its Web site later this year.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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