Falls are the leading cause of injury and death for older Americans.

“The consequences of falls are substantial, including serious injury, loss of independent living and limits on physical activity,” says Jane Strommen, North Dakota State University Extension gerontology specialist.

In 2018, 27.5% of adults aged 65 and older reported at least one fall in the past year (35.6 million falls) and 10.2% reported a fall-related injury (8.4 million fall-related injuries), according to a CDC report.

With 1 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older falling each year, the financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach over $101 billion by 2030. The chances of falling and being seriously injured increase with age. However, falls are not a normal part of aging.

“By reducing the risk of falls, older adults can increase their quality of life and save thousands of dollars in health care and long-term care costs,” Strommen says.

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As the baby-boomer generation continues to age, interventions designed to maintain independence, mobility and quality of life will be increasingly important. Older adults can take control of their health by following these recommendations to prevent falls:

  • Find a good balance and exercise program that builds balance, strength and flexibility.
  • Talk to your health care provider and ask for an assessment of your risk of falling.
  • Review your medications with your pharmacist or doctor. Make sure side effects are not increasing your risk of falling.
  • Get your vision checked annually and update your eyeglasses as needed.
  • Keep your home safe. Increase lighting, remove tripping hazards, install grab bars and make stairs safe.
  • Assess your footwear for safety. Look for supportive shoes, a good fit, a sole that grips and a heel that is stable and grips.

Another important tip is to sign up for a fall prevention class. Many communities in North Dakota provide falls prevention classes called Stepping On for people aged 60 and older. Participants hear from community experts such as pharmacists and vision specialists and learn about strength and balance exercises from physical therapists.

For class information, class schedules or to register, visit www.ndc3.org.

For more information about Stepping On, contact Jane Strommen at 701-231-5948 or jane.strommen@ndsu.edu.