Falling injuries requiring medical attention occur for 115 people in 1,000 adults age 75 and older. About 40% of those over 75 fall at least once a year. If the person is hospitalized, only half of that number will be alive a year later. Every 18 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency department for a fall. More than 90% of hip fractures among older adults are the result of a fall.
There are many reasons for a fall that are age-related: osteoporosis, slowed protective reflexes, poor eyesight, medication side effects, less coordinated gait, loss of muscle tone and strength and a drop in blood pressure upon arising.
It is possible to reduce the risk of falls with maintaining muscle strength and improving balance. “Some age-related loss of balance is inevitable, but some is reversible.” Dr. Laurence Rubenstein suggests two self-help tests:
- With someone ready to steady you if you need, stand with your feet together and close your eyes. How long before you begin to lose your balance?
- Stand on one leg behind a chair without holding on. If you cannot do this for 30 seconds, you need to improve your balance. If you try this with your eyes closed, see how long you can remain stable. A 25-year-old can do it for about 30 seconds, but a 65-year-old may last only a few seconds.
What can you do if you need help with balance? Look for local balance or “Fit & Fall” classes in your area. Classes are often offered at the local library or community center. Don’t become a statistic.
 Dr. Laurence Z. Rubenstein, Chairman of Geriatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, “The Far-Reaching Effects of a Fall”, by Jane E. Brody, The New York Times, March 9, 2015