Preventing falls in older adults: Causes and tips for prevention Preventing falls in older adults: Causes and tips for prevention

Preventing falls in older adults: Causes and tips for prevention

Falls in older adults are a very serious subject, as illustrated by these eye-opening statistics:

  • Every year, more than 1 out of 4 Americans who are aged 65+ experiences a fall.1

  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults.2

  • People with mild hearing loss, some of whom are elderly, are nearly 3 times as likely to fall.3

  • Each year, falls result in more than 3 million injuries treated in emergency rooms and include more than 800,000 hospitalizations.4

  • Most falls (60%) happen at home, with 30% occurring in public and 10% in a healthcare facility.5

Additionally, falls—even without injury—can have a tremendous impact on older adults’ quality of life. When they fear falling, older adults may limit their activities and social interactions, which may result in further physical and mental decline and increase feelings of helplessness.

Misconceptions about falls in older adults

It’s a popular notion that falls are a normal, inevitable part of aging. Seniors may be able to prevent falls if they exercise regularly, get their vision checked, manage their medications and take steps to make their living environment safer. Here’s a look at several other misconceptions about falls in older adults.6

  • By limiting their activities, seniors may avoid falls
    Actually, physical activities may help boost seniors’ strength and range of motion, two things that contribute to balance and reduce the chance of falling. Social activities shouldn’t be avoided either, as they may benefit older adults’ overall well-being.

  • Staying home helps minimize falls in the elderly
    It doesn’t. More than half of all falls happen in the home.7 But removing hazards (clutter, slippery throw rugs, dim lighting) or making some simple modifications (a grab bar in the shower, non-slip paint on outdoor steps) may help minimize falls.

  • Seniors can’t regain muscle strength and flexibility
    It’s true that people lose muscle as they age, but exercise may help older adults increase strength, boost flexibility and decrease the risk of falling.

  • Taking medication doesn’t increase risk of elderly falls
    Certain medications may increase an older adult’s fall risk by causing dizziness or fatigue. Seniors should consult with their doctor about side effects or drug interactions that could cause a fall.

  • Using a walker or cane will make seniors more dependent
    Walking aids—properly fitted with the help of a physical therapist—can help older adults maintain, or even improve, their mobility, while encouraging their independence.

Tips to help prevent falls in older adults

Much of the information above can be condensed into these easy-to-remember tips to help seniors avoid falls:8

  • Do strength and balances exercises
  • Get hearing and vision checked regularly
  • Use a cane or walker for more stability
  • Stand up slowly to avoid dizziness
  • Talk to doctor about medication side effects

Prevent falls room by room

Each room of the home presents different challenges and fall hazards that can affect the older adult’s safety and health. Here’s a quick primer on steps to take throughout the house to reduce fall risks:9

Stairs, halls and floors
Make sure there are secure handrails on both sides of stairways. Keep a clear view of stairs whenever going up or down. Ensure adequate lighting at top and bottom of stairs and in hallways. Keep walkways clear of books, papers, clothing and shoes. Don’t use small, slippery rugs. Avoid wet, newly washed floors.

Mount grab bars on either side of the toilet and around and inside the tub or shower. Put non-skid strips or mats in areas that get wet. Always leave a light on or use a nightlight that turns on automatically when the bathroom gets dark.

Position beds near light switches and use nightlights. Keep a flashlight by the bed in case the power goes off. Keep the home phone or a fully charged mobile phone by the bed.

Keep frequently used pots, pans and utensils within easy reach. Clean up spills right away. To prevent fatigue and possible loss of balance, prepare food while seated on a chair or counter-height stool.

Outdoor spaces
Install non-slip materials on outside steps or stairs. Keep lawn, deck or porch clear of furniture or debris. Put a grab bar near the front door. In the winter, treat steps and walks with ice-melting product or sand.

Other areas
Keep electrical cords away from walking paths. Be aware of pets’ location to avoid tripping over them. Keep frequently used items within easy reach at waist level. Don’t stand on a chair to reach things; get and use a grabbing tool.

Senior fall prevention: it’s a team effort

One of the best ways seniors can prevent a fall is by organizing a personal falls prevention team, which can include:10

  • Family and friends
  • Doctor and pharmacist
  • Check these community resources to find out if they offer senior safety programs:
    • Local fire department
    • Senior center and/or library
    • Faith-based organization

Each team member or community resource offers a unique perspective on the subject and may define and address fall risks, helping to keep the older adult safe and fall-free.

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1“Older Adult Falls Reported by State,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed March 21, 2023,

2“Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed March 21, 2023,

3“Hearing Loss Linked to Three-Fold Risk of Falling,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, last accessed March 21, 2023,

4“Facts About Falls,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed March 21, 2023,

5“Addressing Falls Prevention Among Older Adults, Part I,” last accessed March 21, 2023,

6"Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls," National Council on Aging," last accessed March 24, 2023,

7"Six Tips to Help Prevent Falls," National Institute on Aging, last accessed March 24, 2023,

8"Preventing Falls at Home: Room by Room," National Institute on Aging, last accessed March 24, 2023,

9"Falls Prevention is a Team Effort," National Council on Aging, last accessed March 24, 2023,

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