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Preventing Falls One Step at a Time

Although it's impossible to prevent all falls, you can help keep yourself safe as you grow older by improving your balance and employing "fall-proofing" behaviors in and around your home.

According to the CDC, one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. The CDC estimates that up to 30 percent of adults who fall injure themselves seriously enough to impair their independence and increase their risk for premature death.

Change your home

To help prevent falls in your home:

  • Remove unstable furniture, such as wobbly chairs.

  • Eliminate slippery rugs. Only use firmly attached or nonskid flooring.

  • Arrange furniture and other objects so they don't interfere with walking.

  • Firmly attach grab bars by tubs, showers, and toilets.

  • Make sure handrails on staircases, porches, and front walkways are tightly fastened.

  • Instead of wearing heels, slick soles, or slippers when walking, wear shoes with traction or grip. But, be aware that traction on shoes can cause tripping, especially when moving from linoleum to carpet.

  • Install adequate lighting in stairwells, hallways, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Make sure light switches are easily accessible. Use night lights.

  • Remove electrical cords and telephone wires from walkways.

  • Have couches and chairs at a proper height for effortless standing up and sitting down.

  • Do not cover stairs with rugs or cloth protectors that may slip when you walk on them.

Change your behavior

Getting regular exercise will improve your overall physical condition, making it less likely that you will fall. Your fitness routine should include activities that strengthen your muscles and make your balance better.

Avoiding certain behaviors, which can lead to falls, also is important:

  • Avoid taking chances, such as walking on a freshly washed floor or a patch of ice.

  • Instead of standing on a chair or table to reach something, ask for help or use a reaching tool to do the work.

  • Try not to carry something while climbing stairs. If you must do so, try to have one hand on the object and the other on a sturdy handrail.

  • Avoid talking while walking in unfamiliar territory. Curbs and sidewalk cracks can be hazardous when you're not paying full attention.

  • Don't get up too quickly after eating, lying down, or resting. Rapid changes may cause dizziness. Report any dizziness to your doctor.

  • Simplify activities. Multi-tasking can lead to carelessness or less awareness.

  • If you own pets, make certain you always know their location so you don't trip over them.

For more information on preventing falls, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/index.html.