The Department of Health and Senior Services says falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for people 65 and older in the U.S. More than 18,000 older Americans die from falls every year.

“Even if an older adult does not die from a fall, the often times do not ever fully recover. That leads to a loss of independence, reduced mobility, and sometimes admission to a nursing home,” said Department of Health and Senior Services Director Margaret Donnelly.

“Falls are not just a natural result of getting older and many falls can be prevented. You can do some really basic things to reduce your chances of falling,” Donnelly said.

The Department offers these five simple steps to help prevent falls among older adults:

  • Exercise regularly.  Exercise programs that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.
  • Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines – both prescription and over-the-counter – to reduce side effects and interactions that could cause dizziness or an unsteady gait.
  • Have their eyes checked at least once a year.
  • Improve the lighting in their home.
  • Reduce the hazards in their home that lead to falls, such as loose carpets, lack of bathroom safety equipment and slippery or uneven surfaces.

Donnelly says seniors and their family members can work on that prevention together.

“Those who are family members and care givers, we want everyone to think about it because it is such a big part of being able to age well But also, we want to make people aware because unfortunately falls are also the number one reason for ambulance calls to homes in this country, and they aren’t always for older adults. So everyone should make sure they’re following this advice,” Donnelly said.

With winter weather coming in the next few months, Donnelly says older adults should also make sure their shoes have the proper support and traction, especially when planning to walk outside.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]