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September is National Falls Prevention Month

September is National Falls Prevention Month

Falls are a serious public health problem, one that is largely preventable. Falls increase with age. One out of every three people ages 65 years and older fall each year. In fact, it is estimated that 50 percent of older adults 80 years and older will fall each year.

  • Falls are the leading cause of injury death for older Americans
  • 20-30 percent of older adults who fall suffer serious injury
  • Nearly one-half of all seniors sustaining a fall DO NOT resume independent living
  • Fear of falls limits physical activity
  • By 2020, the total cost of fall injuries expected to reach $55 billion

In North Dakota, there were 88 falls-related deaths among adults 65 years and older in 2013. Here are a few more North Dakota falls-related facts:

  • Falls remain the third leading cause of injury-related fatalities in the state, behind motor vehicle crashes and suicides (for all ages).
  • Between 2009-2013, 89% of falls-related deaths among ND residents were individuals 65 years and older.
  • North Dakota has seen a substantial increase in the number of deaths related to residents’ falls from 2003 to 2008.

Because falls are largely preventable, we need to promote strategies and programs that prevent them. Here are things you can do to stay safe and reduce falls:

  1. Find a good balance and exercise program that builds balance, strength, and flexibility.
  2. Talk to your health care provider and ask for an assessment of your risk of falling.
  3. Review your medications with your pharmacist or doctor. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling.
  4. Get your vision checked annually and update your eyeglasses as needed.
  5. Keep your home safe. Increase lighting, remove tripping hazards, install grab bars, and make stairs safe.
  6. Assess your footwear for safety. Look for a supportive shoe, a good fit, a sole that grips,and a heel that is stable AND grips.

Stepping On is a new evidence-based falls prevention program being offered in communities across North Dakota that addresses all the above strategies. In a small-group setting, older adults learn balance and strength exercises and develop specific knowledge and skills to prevent falls. Currently, there are over 70 trained Stepping On class leaders from 29 counties with backgrounds in health care or health education representing a range of organizations, such as Extension, public
health, hospitals, long term care, faith communities and senior care providers. Click here for a map of North Dakota counties with Stepping On class leaders.

For more information about falls prevention among older adults or the Stepping On program, contact Jane Strommen at or 701-231-5948.

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