According to the journal American Family Physician:
- falls are responsible for 70% of all accidental deaths in people over the age of 75
- more than 90% of hip fractures are the result of falls, with most of them occurring in people over 70 years of age
- 1/3 of the elderly living at home and 60% of all nursing home residents fall each year
Some of the most common causes for falling are:
Lack of physical activity. Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased bone mass, loss of balance, and reduced flexibility.
Impaired vision. This includes age-related vision diseases, as well as not wearing prescribed glasses.
Medications. Sedatives, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotic drugs, plus taking multiple medications are all implicated in increasing risk of falling.
Diseases. Health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis cause weakness in the extremities, poor grip strength, balance disorders and cognitive impairment.
Surgeries. Hip replacements and other surgeries leave an elderly person weak, in pain and discomfort and less mobile than they were before the surgery.
Environmental hazards. One third of all falls in the elderly population involve hazards at home. Factors include: poor lighting, loose carpets and lack of safety equipment.
It’s interesting to note that some of the causes for falling may derive from other treatments for age related maladies (according to the AAFP “Tricyclic antidepressants and other heterocyclic antidepressants have long been associated with an increased risk for falls.”). The average nursing home resident takes over five medications daily, some of which could probably be reduced or stopped simply by eating healthier and exercising, creating a synergistic effect for overall health and fall prevention.