Falls often have severe consequences, especially for older adults. California’s aging populations are more vulnerable to falling and sustaining injuries due to a combination of physical, health and environmental factors.
Understanding the reasons older adults are more susceptible to falling is important for fall prevention. Recognizing the environmental factors that contribute to falls is just as important.
Why older adults are prone to falling
As individuals age, they often experience a natural decline in muscle strength and balance. Weakened muscles and reduced stability make it harder to prevent falls. Age-related vision problems, such as cataracts and glaucoma, can also affect an older adult’s ability to see hazards. Poor vision, too, can result in older adults misjudging distances and obstacles.
Many older adults take multiple medications for various health conditions. Some of these medications may cause dizziness, drowsiness or changes in blood pressure, leading to a higher risk of falls. Conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, which are more common among older people, can weaken bones and limit mobility. Chronic conditions make falls more likely and increase the chances of fractures when they occur.
What environmental hazards often contribute to falls
Environmental factors are also frequent contributors to falls, especially among older adults. Objects on the floor, scattered items or loose rugs can trip older adults and cause serious fall-related injuries. Inadequate lighting is also a common factor, with poorly lit areas making it challenging to see obstacles, especially at night.
Steps, thresholds and uneven flooring can all increase the risk of tripping, while wet bathroom surfaces or recently cleaned floors can be slippery and cause falls as a result.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that falls have become the leading cause of injury among older adults, with one in four falling every year. By addressing contributing factors and taking preventative measures, older adults can significantly reduce the risk of falls and, in doing so, enhance their own safety and well-being.