NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Old People's Falls Not Their Homes' Fault

December 18, 2000

There is no connection between hazards such as loose throw rugs and slippery showers and the risk of older people falling in their homes, according to a new study from Yale School of Medicine. Rather, factors related to the individuals -- such as poor vision or inappropriate footwear -- are more likely causes.

  • About one-third of people 65 to 79 fall each year.
  • Roughly half of people 80 and older fall.
  • Of those who do fall, 10 percent suffer serious injury.

The three-year study followed residents who were at least 72 years old and lived in their own homes. Participants kept daily diaries about falls for three years. The scientists excluded falls related to a loss of consciousness.

Half the participants had at least one fall because of a trip or slip, but researchers found no consistent link between falls such environmental hazards as loose rugs.

The findings, researchers said, indicate efforts to reduce falls should be aimed at older people themselves, not their homes. Rather than paying firms which do "home safety assessment," researchers suggest, the money would be better spent teach older people exercises to increase muscle strength and improve balance, making sure they're wearing appropriates shoes, correcting vision problems and monitoring medication.

  • Previous research suggests eliminating hazards in the home can reduce risk of falling by 10 to 15 percent.
  • However, such measures as muscle-strengthening exercises and corrected vision can reduce the risk by 20 to 40 percent.

Source: Rita Rubin, "For Elderly, Falls Aren't the Fault of the Home," USA Today, December 18, 2000.


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