Education for older adults needed for outdoor fall prevention

Nearly 30 percent of adults age 65 and older fall each year with serious consequences for the patient and the healthcare system.
By Amy Wallace  |  May 19, 2017 at 3:19 PM
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May 19 (UPI) -- A study by New York University has found older adults need to be made aware of the risk of falls outdoors, an area often neglected compared to indoor falls.

Approximately 30 percent of adults age 65 and older fall each year. Even though falls in the elderly have been well studied, the focus has been on indoor rather than outdoor falls.

Previous research shows that 48 percent of the most recent falls in older adults, and up to 72 percent in middle age adults, happen outdoors compared to indoors.

"Despite their frequency, outdoor falls receive little attention when it comes to education and prevention," Tracy Chippendale, assistant professor of occupational therapy at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said in a press release.

The new study, published in the journal Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, showed people who fall outdoors are more likely to be male, younger, active and fast walkers causing physical injuries such as head injuries, fractures and open wounds along with emotional issues such as fear and anxiety about falling again.

The researchers examined the incidence of outdoor falls of 120 New York City residents over age 55.

Researchers found 71 percent of adults in the study had fallen outdoors during their adult years and, of those, 28 had minor injuries, 18 had moderate injuries and nine had severe injuries.

Study participants attributed their falls to a variety of causes including environmental factors such as objects, surface conditions, stairs, inappropriate shoes, walking too fast or not paying attention.

Researchers found several unmet education and training needs for outdoor fall prevention in community-dwelling older adults including the importance of wearing single vision glasses and proper footwear.

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