Falls Prevention in Older Adults

Each year, more than one in four adults (age 65 & older) fall causing fatal & nonfatal injuries.

Falls Prevention Awareness Week

Did you know that falling is NOT a normal part of aging?

Falls among older adults continue to be a national public health concern. During Falls Prevention Awareness Week, organizations nationwide including the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and Falls Free Initiative raise awareness on how to prevent falls, reduce the risk of falls, and help older adults live without the fear of falling.

Falls threaten older adults’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. However, through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs, and clinical-community partnerships, the number of falls among older adults can be substantially reduced.

Source: NCOA

Learn how you can make a difference:

Many people think falling is common as they age. The truth is older adults can improve balance and strength. Taking action to address the risk of falling is an important way to stay healthy and independent as long as possible. Falls Prevention activities are beneficial to everyone across the lifespan, and they can be fun!

For more information, checkout the NCOA’s Falls Free Conversation Guide for Caregivers (in English and Spanish) >>

Many older adults choose to continue living at home as they age. However, their homes may not be as functional as they once were. In fact, over half of all falls take place at home. With a few modifications, however, you can make your home a safe and comfortable place to age in place, independently, and reduce the risk of falling.

Below are five quick and easy home modifications you can make on your own:

1. Secure some support: Buy a shower seat, grab bar, and adjustable-height handheld shower head to make bathing easier and safer.

2. Light it up: Replace burnt-out bulbs with bright, non-glare lightbulbs.

3. Have a seat: Place a sturdy chair in your bedroom so you can sit while getting dressed.

4. Clear the way: Keep items off the stairs and fix simple but serious hazards such as clutter and throw rugs.

5. Store for success: Keep frequently used items between your waist and shoulder height.

Source: NCOA

Facts on Falls

• Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries among older adults aged 65 and older.

• One out of ten falls causes a serious injury, such as a hip fracture or head injury, which requires hospitalization.

• Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

Falls Can Be Deadly

Each year, at least 25,000 older adults die as a result of falls. And the rate of fall-related deaths among older adults in the U.S. has been rising steadily over the past decade.

It is important for older adults to understand their risk of falling.

NCOA’s Falls Free CheckUp is a digital assessment where older adults can answer 13 simple questions to get their falls risk score and steps to reduce their risk. Available in English and Spanish.

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC); National Council on Aging (NCOA)

Falls & Brain Injuries

Types of Brain Injuries that occur from falls include:

• Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), also known as a concussion. Concussions are caused when the brain receives trauma from an impact or a sudden momentum or movement change. Concussions can cause the person to have dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, and nausea, among other symptoms.

• Contusion. A bruise on the brain caused by something striking the head, which can cause bleeding and swelling in the brain.

• Penetrating injuryalso known as an open head injury. Occurs from the impact of a sharp object that forces hair, skin, bone, and fragments from the object into the brain.

• Closed head injury. Occurs when an outside force hits the head without any penetration of the skull. The force of the injury often causes the brain to swell. Since the brain has nowhere to expand, it can lead to increased pressure within the skull. As the brain swells, it may expand through any available opening in the skull, leading to medical complications.

Source: Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA)

Fall Risk Factors

A fall risk factor is something that increases a person’s chances of falling. This may be a biological characteristic, a behavior, or an aspect of the environment.

These risk factors include:


• Muscle weakness or balance problems

• Medication side effects and/or interactions

• Chronic health conditions such as arthritis and stroke

• Vision changes and vision loss

• Loss of sensation in feet


• Inactivity

• Risky behaviors such as standing on a chair in place of a step stool

• Alcohol use


• Clutter and tripping hazards

• Poor lighting

• Lack of stair railings

• Lack of grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower

• Poorly designed public spaces

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

Check Your Risk

Use this checklist to check your risk for falling.

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) produced in collaboration with VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VA), Geriatric Research Education & Clinical Center (GRECC), and the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence.

Check for Safety at Home

Use this checklist to safeguard your home, or to help a friend or family member safeguard their home.

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), produced with support from the MetLife Foundation.


Talk to Your Doctor

• Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.

• Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.

Get Your Eyes Checked

• Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.

• If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Make Your Home Safer

• Get rid of things you could trip over.

• Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.

• Put railings on both sides of stairs.

• Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.


As a caregiver, you can encourage your loved ones to take action to reduce their fall risk.

• Initiate a conversation with your loved one and their healthcare provider about fall risk and prevention.

6 Steps to Prevent Falls

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury. Many falls are preventable. Take control of your health today!

Follow these six steps to prevent falls & injuries >>

Source: National Council on Aging (NCOA)


The Enhance®Fitness (EF) exercise program is a low-cost, evidence-based group exercise and falls prevention program. The EF exercise program strives to help older adults at all levels of fitness become more active, energized, and empowered to sustain independent lives. It may also help reduce risk factors associated with falls.

Logo features 'ENHANCE' (in thin orange text) stacked above 'FITNESS' (in bold red text) with swirly 'e' as logomark on left

Learn more & try a class >>


King County Fall Prevention Coalition (KCFPC): KCFPCs mission is to reduce falls and fall-related injuries in older adults through community collaboration, awareness, education, and evidence-based interventions.

Falls Free® Initiative: promotes National Falls Prevention Awareness Week. For more resources from the National Council on Aging, visit their website.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)-National Institute on Aging: Prevent Falls and Fractures Information.

EnhanceFitness: To learn more about EnhanceFitness or find a free/low-cost class near you!

Sound Generations: Seattle-based organization which partners with older adults to provide accessible and inclusive services, so they can age their way.

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC): Older Adult Falls Prevention Resources

King County Falls Prevention Resources

WA Department of Health: Falls Prevention Resources

WA State Falls Action Plan: Finding Our Balance

AARP: HomeFit Guide

Chronic Conditions & Falls Risk: Ear Health

Ys Active Older Adult (AOA) programs cater exclusively to those 55 and older, bringing together those in the same stage of life where concerns about things like fall prevention aren’t unique, and programs are adapted to fit your unique activity level and capabilities.

Ys Active Older Adult (AOA) group fitness classes include options like tai chi (specifically recommended by the CDC for fall prevention) and yoga, dance, circuit, and strength training. Many class formats are offered with a chair to provide an option for a sitting workout or a place to steady yourself. Water fitness is also a great choice that provides a low-impact and effective workout to improve cardiovascular fitness, overall strength, and flexibility through resistance and buoyancy.


Visit our Digital Resource Center to learn more about Falls Prevention — plus, more injury and violence prevention topics year-round!