Falls are something most seniors try to avoid at all cost but researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago are intentionally tripping older adults in an effort to prevent falls that often lead to injury and can quickly cause a loss of independence and a decline in overall health.
By using a controlled environment where seniors are kept safe on treadmills using an overhead harness system, tripping hazards can be simulated and study participants learn how to avoid falls without fear of injury. Seniors quickly acquire an understanding of how they can shift their weight or move their body to avoid falling when they encounter tripping hazards such as uneven pavement or a slippery sidewalk.
Scientists also learn more about how falls occur with the use of sensors attached to the arms and legs of older adults. The study has received a $1 million – 5 year grant to test and develop the treadmill system from the National Institute on Aging and researchers hope to enroll 300 seniors in the project.
Falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults and cost the American health system an estimated $30 billion each year to treat. This new approach to fall prevention, if proven successful, could be replicated in clinics, medical offices and physical therapy centers to train seniors how to avoid falling. But until then, there are a number of steps older adults can take to avoid falls that can cause serious injury, lead to hospitalization or speed up a move into assisted living.
Fall Prevention Tips
- Stay physically active; strong muscles and good balance help prevent falls.
- Check medications for any side effects or interactions that may cause dizziness or drowsiness
- Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs around the home
- Get regular annual vision checks
- Install handrails in bathrooms and along hallways or stairs
- Keep pathways and halls well lit and cleared of hazards
- Use a cane or walker if recommended by a health care professional
- Rise from sitting slowly to avoid a drop in blood pressure causing dizziness
- Wear supportive shoes with slip-resistant soles.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
To learn more about fall prevention, check out The Oldish Home Safety Checklists under the Toolkit tab. This will guide you room by room, identifying safety hazards and provide an action plan which can be shared with family and friends. Read more about similar fall prevention strategies in the Netherlands here.