September 23, 2010 – In recognition of Falls Prevention Awareness Day, the Health Department and the Department for the Aging (DFTA) are urging New Yorkers to help prevent falls among older adults, and publicizing the numerous steps City agencies are taking against this leading cause of injuries. As the city's older population grows – more than 1 million New Yorkers are now 65 or older, up from 605,000 in 1950 – this message is more critical than ever. Fortunately, there are effective ways to prevent falls. They include modifying medicines, improving vision, promoting physical activity and reducing trip-and-fall hazards in the home and community.
The Health Department has recently produced a fall-prevention guide for health care providers and a health bulletin for older adults and their families. In addition, the Age-Friendly NYC initiative is strengthening efforts to prevent falls, improve information-sharing and promote best practices by businesses and public institutions. The initiative, a partnership between Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council and the New York Academy of Medicine, has charged the Health Department and DFTA with spearheading a coalition to lead these fall prevention efforts.
“Our priority in launching the Age-friendly initiative was to make New York a city for all ages,” said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. “Keeping older adults, especially those over the age of 65, safe from falls in their homes and in public spaces is one of the ways we are working to ensure this population is safe and healthy.”
“Falls are the most common cause of fractures and traumatic brain injuries for older adults,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “A few simple steps such as regular participation in strength building and balance exercises, having your eyes checked, and removing clutter from stairs and walkways can greatly reduce the risk of falls.”
Together, the Health Department and DFTA are promoting various measures to help seniors get the exercise they need to prevent falls. These include forming partnerships with health clubs so that fitness instructors can teach classes in senior centers.
In New York City each year, emergency departments treat more than 21,000 older adults for injuries due to falls, and hospitals admit almost 16,000 older adults for fall-related injuries. Older adults account for more than two thirds of the city's fall-related hospitalizations and deaths, and the risk increases with age. Hip fracture is the leading cause of fall-related hospitalization for the oldest adults (those 85 and older). When people in that age group are hospitalized for falls, nearly half are discharged to nursing facilities.
“Seniors take pride in the ability to live independently, and this education and awareness effort will make it safer for them to continue to do so,” said DFTA Commissioner Barrios-Paoli. “As the number of seniors in New York City grows, it becomes increasingly important that seniors become aware of the simple measures they can take to minimize the risk factors that can cause a fall.”
To raise awareness about the consequences of falls for older adults, New York and 33 other states declared September 23rd Falls Prevention Awareness Day. If you're a senior or a caregiver, here are some strategies to help reduce the risk of falls.
- Talk to your health care provider about an age-appropriate exercise plan that focuses on balance, strength and flexibility.
- Have your vision checked regularly by your health care provider.
- Review your medications with your healthcare provider to reduce the risk of drug interactions.
- Check your home for proper lighting. Reduce clutter or unsecured rugs, and move wires that could cause slipping and tripping.
- Join one of NYC’s 281 community-based senior centers to take advantage of free health and wellness programming.
- For more information and resources, read the Health Department’s publication “How to Prevent Falls,” available through 311 or nyc.gov.
Health care providers who serve older adults can learn more about these important issues in the Health Department publications “Preventing Falls in Older Adults in the Community” and “Age-Friendly Primary Care,” also available on the Health Department’s website. The Age-Friendly NYC report can be found on the DFTA website, which is also reachable through nyc.gov.