Originally created 12/31/98

Common-sense measures can help elderly avoid falls



The National Institute on Aging says falls are the most common cause of fatal injury in older adults. Each year thousands of senior men and women are disabled, sometimes permanently, by falls that result in broken bones and other injuries.

Lindsay Appel, director of rehabilitation for Masonic Geriatric Health Care Center in Wallingford, Conn., says the number of hip and other bone fractures increases during the winter.

People spend more time indoors during cold months, Ms. Appel says, so paying attention to inside accident prevention is important.

"Folks will bundle up on the couch and stretch the phone over to where they're sitting, or they'll put down small rugs because the floor is cold," Ms. Appel said. "Then when they get up, they forget and take a tumble."

Seniors should make sure stairways, hallways and pathways are well-lighted and clear of clutter. Any small carpets or scatter rugs should be well-secured to the floor or on non-skid mats.

A cordless model is less dangerous than a conventional one.

Maintaining a regular program of exercise throughout the winter, says Robin Aborick, director of the Senior Health and Wellness Center at St. Frances Hospital and Medical Center in Connecticut, and choosing the proper footwear, will improve balance and coordination.

"It's really important to keep your joints, tendons and ligaments flexible," Dr. Aborick said. "Exercise helps you maintain strength and muscle tone. Something as simple as doing ankle rolls while you're watching TV can really make a difference. If you do start to trip, you'll be better able to catch yourself."