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More Seniors Face Injury and Death from Falling Down

Research shows dramatic rise in preventable injuries, including falling

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The frequency of preventable injuries among people age 65 and older--especially product-related injuries and injuries caused by falling down--have increased dramatically year over year.

In response, National Safety Council (NSC) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) teamed up in 2003 for a national educational campaign designed to reduce the number of preventable injuries among older Americans.

Injuries from Falling are Increasing
Falling is the leading cause of unintentional injury at home among Americans 65 and older. Older people sustain such injuries by stumbling on stairs; slipping in bathtubs; falling off ladders and step stools; and tripping over garden hoses, dog leashes, and household appliance cords.

  • According to a 2003 CPSC study titled, "Special Report: Emergency Room Injuries, Adults 65 and Older", consumers 65 and over are increasingly at risk from product-related injuries that occur in or around their homes, especially injuries caused by falling. CPSC estimates product-related injuries and deaths involving those 65 and older cost the United States over $100 billion every year.

    The report also cites a number of sports-related injuries and deaths among more active seniors. For example, CPSC noted 100 drowning deaths in one year among those 65 and older, a disproportionate share. Fires are also a hazard. Cooking fires that cause burns, start house fires, or ignite clothing while older people are cooking are a major hazard for seniors.

  • Older People More Vulnerable
    The CPSC study found that people age 75 and older are even more vulnerable. From 1991 to 2002, the number of people 75 and older who were treated in a U.S. hospital emergency room for product-related injuries increased an astonishing 73 percent. During the same period, the number of Americans in that age group grew by only 27 percent.

  • In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control reported that unintentional falls were the #1 reason adults over 45 visited the emergency room. Here's how that breaks out:
    • Ages 45-54: 817,043
    • Ages 55-64: 633,428
    • Age 65+: 1,840,117

Each week, more than 30,000 Americans over the age of 65 are seriously injured by falling, and nearly 250 die from their injuries, according to the NSC. Of those who do survive falling, 20-30 percent experience debilitating injuries that affect them the rest of their lives. Falling is also the leading cause of injury, and the leading cause of injury-related death, for both men and women 75 and older.

Most Fatal Falls Occur at Home
According to the NSC, 54 percent of all falling-related deaths of older people are caused by seniors falling down at home, and 20 percent of those fatal falls occur in residential institutions.

The most common serious injury from falling is a hip fracture. More than 24 percent of all people suffering a hip fracture die within a year of falling, and another 50 percent never return to their prior level of mobility and independence.

"These are preventable injuries," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "Older Americans are living longer and are more active than ever. We want them to enjoy themselves, free from debilitating injury."

How to Reduce Your Risk of Injury from Falling
Learn how you can reduce your risk of injury from falling by making simple changes to your home and lifestyle. 4 Simple Steps to Prevent Falling offers tips on exercise, vision, medications and home safety to reduce your risk of falling.

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