Preventing Geriatric Falls

Falls are a major health problem for older adults.

What’s the problem?

Falls are a major health problem for older adults.

  • Falls are the leading cause of injury death to people over the age of 65.
  • Each year approximately 10,000 older adults die from falls or fall-related injuries.
  • Falls result in approximately 200,000 hip fractures in older adults each year, half of these individuals remain disabled.
  • Almost half of older adults hospitalized for a fall injury are then discharged to nursing care.
  • In 1989, the cost of hospital care alone for fall injuries was more than $50 million in Washington State.
  • Falls are not part of the normal aging process nor are they random – many can be prevented!

Who falls where?

Falls in the elderly are very common.

  • About 25% of persons aged 65-74 who live in the community fall each year. The rate increases to over 33% among those 75 years and older.
  • Over 50% of all fatal falls involve people 75 years and older who make up only 4% of the population.
  • Older women experience significantly more falls than do older men until the age of 75, when the frequency becomes similar for both sexes.
  • Half of elderly persons who fall do so repeatedly.
  • Approximately 3/4 of the falls in older adults occur in and around the home.
  • The majority of these falls occur while walking or just turning around.

Why footwear?

Footwear acts as a support for the body.

  • A study of falls in older adults showed that unsturdy footwear significantly increases the risk of suffering a hip fracture in a fall.
  • Two-thirds of the falls resulting in hip fracture occurred to people wearing unsturdy shoes.
  • Individuals at highest risk for fall injury, those 80 years and older, report less frequent use of “safe” shoes.

Checklist for Preventing Falls in your Home

  • Increase lighting in your home by using the highest watt bulb allowed for the light fixture. Use frosted bulbs to reduce glare.
  • Always turn on lights before walking into a dark room, even if you are only going in for a moment.
  • Keep the light on in the bathroom at night, or use a night-light.
  • Make sure stairs are well lit and there is a light switch at both the top and bottom. Mark edges of steps with non skid contrasting strips.
  • Have sturdy handrails that run the full length on both sides of all stairways, extending slightly beyond the first and last step. Use handrails!
  • Slip-proof the bath tub or shower with a rubber mat or non-slip decals.
  • Install grab bars over the bath tub or on the shower wall. Replace towel racks with sturdier grab bars.
  • Make sure all carpets have short, dense pile and edges lie flat. Tack down loose edges with double-sided carpet tape or tacks. No shag carpets!
  • Scatter rugs slide and are hazardous, use skid-proof rugs or runners.
  • Keep walking areas and stairs free of clutter! Are telephone and electrical cords out of the flow of traffic or taped down?
  • Use a sturdy step stool or ladder to reach high places.
  • Wipe up spills as soon as they occur.
  • Don’t block your vision carrying bulky packages. Make more trips with smaller loads.
  • Give yourself time to adjust your balance when getting up from a sitting or lying position.


The CDC’s MyMobility Plan helps families and older adults create a plan to help stay safe from preventable falls.