Falls are leading cause of injury for city seniors

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 21:  Senior citizens at the Caring Community Presbyterian Senior Center on W. 12th St. enjoy lunch for one dollar, a program which is slated to be eliminated due to city budget cuts.  (Photo by Mike Albans/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
About 300 seniors die annually in the city due to fall-related injuries. Credit: Mike Albans/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Falls are the leading cause of injury among the city’s older adults, according to a new report by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Between 2006 and 2010, fall-related emergency department visits among adults 65 and older increased by 22 percent, the report found.

More than 28,000 older adults were treated and released from city hospital emergency departments due to falls. Each year, about 17,000 older adults are hospitalized and 300 die as a result of a fall.

“As our aging population continues to grow, we must do all that we can to prevent dangerous and oftentimes fatal falls amongst our seniors,” said Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, deputy mayor of Health and Human Services, in a statement.

The report is based on hospital data, death records and a survey conducted in senior centers.

The survey found that 58 percent of falls happen at home, with the bedroom being the most common location for falls. The use of multiple medications and trip hazards inside the home are common risk factors. Forty-eight percent of seniors said they were taking four or more prescription medications, and 69 percent said they have throw rugs or clutter in their home.

There are 1.3 million older adults living in New York City, according to the health department. That number is expected to increase by 50 percent by the year 2030.

In 2009, the city launched Age-Friendly NYC, a cross-agency, public-private partnership with 59 initiatives focused on improving the lives of the city’s seniors. Fall prevention is a key component among the initiatives, Barrios-Paoli said.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said many falls are preventable and urged anyone who knows or works with an older adult to screen them for risk factors that could lead to falls.

He recommended discontinuing medications that are not absolutely necessary, encouraging older adults to exercise to improve balance and checking the home for trip hazards.


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