New York State Health, Aging Leaders Urge New Yorkers to Guard Against Falls, Especially Among Older Adults

Governor Paterson Declares September 23 As 'Falls Prevention Awareness Day' in New York State

ALBANY, NY (Sept. 23, 2010) - In recognition of National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, September 23, which is the first day of Fall, the heads of New York State's agencies for health and aging urge all New Yorkers to be aware of how to prevent falls, especially among older adults.

Governor David A. Paterson has declared Thursday as "Falls Prevention Awareness Day" in New York State in recognition of the serious toll that falls exact on the lives and health of thousands of New Yorkers each year and the need to raise awareness of preventive measures that can keep seniors safe.

"There are more than 2.6 million New Yorkers 65 years of age or older, and one of their biggest concerns is taking a bad fall that could cause them to lose the ability to live independently," said Governor Paterson. "I encourage all senior citizens and their family members to take measures that will prevent falls and encourage a long, healthy life."

Each year in New York State, an average of 900 adults aged 65 years and older die from an injury sustained from a fall and over 128,000 are treated at a hospital due to a fall, resulting in more than $1.6 billion in annual hospital charges.

"Many falls can be prevented by making lifestyle changes and following precautions that decrease the risk of falling," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Prevention is critical because falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and injury-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits among New Yorkers 65 and older and can lead to an earlier admission to a nursing home."

"Avoiding falls is key to maintaining independence as New Yorkers age," said Michael J. Burgess, Director of the State Office for the Aging. "Studies show that several measures, including activities that improve balance, strength and flexibility, as well as periodic review of medications, regular eye checks, and providing a safe and supportive home environment can significantly reduce falls in older adults."

Falls can result in lasting, serious injuries, which affect mobility, independence and mental health. Hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries are common fall-related injuries sustained by older adults.

Many chronic diseases and conditions experienced by older New Yorkers are associated with an increased risk of falling and fall-related injuries. These conditions include Alzheimer's Disease/dementia, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, and visual impairment.

The following simple strategies can reduce a person's risk of falling and increase the ability to live longer and independently:

  • Begin a regular exercise program. Exercises that improve strength, balance and coordination (like Tai Chi) are the most helpful. Ask your doctor or health care provider about the best type of exercise program for you.
  • Ask your health care provider to review all your medications, including over-the-counter medicines. As one get older, the way medicines work in the body can change. Some medicines or combinations of medicines can make people sleepy or dizzy and can increase the risk of falling.
  • Get your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Poor vision can increase your risk of falling. You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition like glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision.
  • Make your home safer by removing items you can trip over (like throw rugs, papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and other places where you walk. Nearly two-thirds of all hospitalizations and over a third of emergency room visits for New Yorkers ages 65 years and older are due to falls that take place in the home.
  • Improve the lighting in the home. As people get older, they need brighter lights to see well. Put handrails and lights in all staircases. Use a nightlight in the bathroom.
  • Wear shoes inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.

More information on how to prevent falls is available at http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/0641/index.htm

To find out about falls prevention programs in your area, contact your local Office for the Aging, listed at the following link: http://www.aging.ny.gov/NYSOFA/LocalOffices.cfm