8 tips to prevent falls and fractures in older adults

Excerpt: Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians, affecting to 20% to 30% of seniors each year and causing 85% of injury-related hospitalizations. You can help prevent falls and fractures by building bone and muscle strength, improving balance, and being physically active each day. Wearing proper footwear, reviewing medications for side effects affecting balance, and checking vision and hearing regularly can also reduce the risk of falls.

Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians and 20% to 30% of seniors experience one or more falls each year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.* Falls cause 85% of seniors’ injury-related hospitalizations and 95% of all hip fractures.* Older adults also spend an average of 6 to 9 days longer in the hospital for a fall than for all other reasons, says McMaster University.*

To avoid falls and fractures, it helps to understand some of the causes: poor balance, decreased muscle and bone strength, reduced vision or hearing, side effects from medications, and improper footwear. *

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of falls and keep your feet safely on the ground:

  1. Build bone and muscle strength. Strengthen your bones by doing weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing, or climbing stairs,* says the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation. Strengthen your muscles with elastic resistance bands or aquatic exercise.* Getting enough calcium and vitamin D through diet, or supplements, can also help to keep bones strong and prevent fractures,* according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

  2. Improve your balance. Tai Chi is a gentle form of exercise that improves balance by increasing leg strength, flexibility, range of motion and speed of reflexes, says Harvard Medical School.* A Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation study found older adults who did tai chi for eight weeks improved balance and reduced their fear of falling.*

  3. Be physically active each day. Tight, inflexible, or weak muscles, along with poor endurance and posture, increase the risk of falls. Regular exercise, approved by your doctor, can counteract these risks and reduce the rate of falls by 25%.*

  4. Wear safe, sensible shoes. Wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with non-skid soles rather walking in floppy slippers and shoes or stocking feet, which can make you slip, stumble and fall,* advises Mayo Clinic.

  5. Review your medications. Ask your doctor to review your medications for side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness or muscle weakness that may increase the risk of falling.* Your doctor may consider adjusting or weaning you off medications that could affect balance.

  6. Check vision and hearing regularly. Vision and hearing loss increase the risk of falls by impairing balance and making it harder to accurately perceive environmental obstacles, reported an Age and Ageing study.* Wearing glasses and hearing aids as prescribed can improve balance and help prevent falls.*

  7. Use appropriate mobility aids. Some older adults with balance problems choose not to use canes, walkers or other mobility aids. If you have concerns about balance problems, talk to your doctor, a physical therapist or occupational therapist about using the right mobility aid, which can dramatically improve independence and safety when used correctly, advises the Saskatchewan Health Authority.*

  8. Eat healthy meals. Nutritious meals help keep up your strength, balance, energy, and alertness. Avoid skipping meals, which can cause weakness and dizziness.*