Pennsylvania joins 44 other states and the Falls Free Coalition in declaring a statewide Falls Prevention Awareness Day on the first day of fall, which is this Saturday.
This year's theme, "Standing Together to Prevent Falls," seeks to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers and family members to play a part in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older population.
"About 1/3 of those age 65 fall each year. At age 80, over half of seniors fall annually," said Ivan Mulligan, president of the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association.
Falls account for 25 percent of all hospital admissions and 40 percent of nursing home admissions, he added. Forty percent of those admitted do not return to independent living and 25 percent die within a year.
"We need to stand together as a community and raise awareness of preventive measures that can keep seniors safe in Pennsylvania," Mulligan said.
Every 15 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury.
"This day of awareness brings attention to a growing public health issue among older adults but, more importantly, the growing availability of proven falls prevention programs and interventions," said Bonita Lynn Beattie, vice president of injury prevention with the National Council on Aging and leader of the Falls Free Initiative. "We need to create a national prevention dialogue, and we welcome everyone to stand together to promote older adult safety and independence."
Studies show that a combination of interventions significantly can reduce falls in the older adult population. Experts recommend the following:
A physical activity regimen with balance, strength training and flexibility components;
Consulting with a physical therapist about getting a fall risk assessment;
Getting eyes checked annually; and
At senior centers and other community-based organizations across the U.S., programs such as A Matter of Balance, Tai Chi and Stepping On help older adults gain the strength, improved balance and confidence to help them live healthier and preserve their independence.
In Pennsylvania, seniors may contact a local physical therapist for an evaluation on their balance. They can evaluate the cause of your falls and develop a personalized exercise program to improve your balance.