Do fall prevention programs really work to keep seniors safe? Falls are one of the leading causes of hospitalization and injury for seniors and preventing them is extremely important. According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year and every 11 seconds a senior is treated for a fall in the emergency room. There are many strategies for preventing falls, but which ones are most effective?
The National Council on Aging has done the research on the best community-based fall prevention programs and here are the ones they found to be most successful.
Improving balance. Balance is key to preventing falls. Strong leg muscles and a strong core promote balance by encouraging stable walking. Weak muscles can’t support the hips and back and that leads to unbalanced walking. Strong muscles can also help the senior to catch him or herself should they begin to fall. Fortunately, exercise programs designed to improve balance show positive results. Many local YMCA’s, senior centers and community organizations offer exercise classes meant specifically to improve balance. Once seniors started participating in balance and exercise classes, 99% of them said they planned to continue exercising.
Otago Exercise Program. You may not have heard about this but the Otago Exercise program is an individual program of muscle strengthening and balance exercises prescribed by a physical therapist for frail older adults aged 80+ who are still living at home. Ask your loved one’s primary care physician for a referral to a physical therapist so that you can access this type of falls prevention for your loved one. This program has a documented 35% reduction in fall rates.
Stepping On. This is a program that offers older adults different strategies to reduce falls and increase self-confidence. The program lasts seven weeks and covers a range of issues ranging from learning about falls and risk, strength and balance exercises, fall hazards in the home, vision and falls, safe footwear and more. This program has reduced fall rates by 30%.
Tai Chi. This is an ancient system of balance and gait (walking) training that is achieved through controlled movements. The practice has spread across the country as people become aware of its benefits in improving balance and maintaining strong joints and muscles. Tai Chi programs have a documented 55% reduction in fall rates.
Other fall prevention programs that the National Council on Aging has found to be effective include:
FallScape. FallScape is a customized program for anyone who has experienced a fall or regular loss of balance.
Healthy Steps for Older Adults. Healthy Steps for Older Adults (HSOA) is an evidence-based falls prevention program for adults ages 50 and over.
YMCA Moving for Better Balance: This is a 12-week instructor-led group program designed to improve strength, mobility, flexibility, and balance for enhanced overall physical health and better functioning in daily activities. Find out if your local YMCA offers the program.
These are the programs that the National Council on Aging has found to be most helpful in reducing falls. Those combined with proper fall prevention strategies and understanding the consequences of senior falls can drastically reduce the risk of injury due to falls. Along with lighting, exercise, and preventative acts in the home, these can help ensure that the senior in your life is safe and sound.