As an older adult living in Michigan, you have a higher risk of suffering a serious fall that leads to injury or death than your younger friends, family members and neighbors. While some of your enhanced fall risk comes from lifestyle-related factors, such as how physically fit you are, others arise because of environmental factors, and these can vary broadly based on where you live and where you spend most of your time.
According to the National Council on Aging, falls have become the most common cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among Americans 65 and older, with an older adult seeking care in an emergency room for fall-related injuries every 11 seconds. Altogether, more than 27,000 older adults die due to fall-related injuries each year, while another 800,000 undergo hospitalization due to falls on an annual basis. Just what types of factors make today’s older Americans fall and hurt themselves?
While younger Americans who have a typical amount of strength and flexibility may be able to prevent some falls, older Americans often have factors in play that prevent them from doing the same. For example, while a younger person may be able to avoid falling on a slippery or icy sidewalk by supporting his or herself using a handrail, an older American could struggle to do the same, resulting in a fall.
Similarly, many older Americans lose strength and flexibility as they age, and this can happen simply due to the aging process or because they are recovering from surgery or reducing their typical degree of physical fitness. When older adults lack strength and flexibility, they become more susceptible to falling because of another’s negligence, and dangers such as wet floors, cluttered stairwells and poor lighting can pose even more of a threat to this population.
When older adults fall, it can affect them physically, but it can also take an emotional toll. In the wake of a fall, many older Americans become fearful of falling again. This can lead to decreased socialization, and, as a result, loneliness and isolation.