In 2007, a window washer astonished the world when miraculously he survived a 47-story fall. This past February, thousands of Youtubers viewed the footage of a Utah man surviving a 90-foot fall in the Grand Canyon.
While sensational falls like these attract a lot of media attention, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
In fact, the CDC estimates that every second of every day, an older American falls, making falls “the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans.”
That’s why today, the first day of fall, is Fall Prevention Awareness Day, sponsored by the American Council on Aging. The idea is to spread awareness of the dangers posed to seniors by falling and highlight preventative measures.
The CDC explains, “Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.” The CDC also estimates that the problem will increase as more and more Americans turn 65.
“[Falls] are very common in the older population,” says assistant teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters, an expert on head injuries and gerontology. He believes that most falls go unreported despite the massive dangers they pose. Part of this, he thinks, comes from a lack of understanding about the nature of fall injuries or the health risks that can lead to them.
“Many times we hear ‘Oh, she fell and broke her hip,’ but in reality her hip broke because of osteoporosis which made her fall,” he says. He also points out that many times the consequences of a fall worsen over time, meaning that many Americans do not initially seek treatment and thus increase the chance of more serious health problems like a stroke.
That is why, Winters says, anyone, particularly older adults, who has fallen should promptly visit the emergency room. However, even more important are the preventative measures that even college students can start in order to reduce their future risk of falling.
“Fall prevention begins before you’re at risk for falls,” he says. Health living, including exercise, is critical to maintaining strong and flexible muscles into old age. Having proper lighting and removing tripping hazards in homes are also important.