2011-10-07 / Top Stories

City Aims to Reduce Senior Falls

In recognition of Falls Prevention Awareness Day, Commissioner of the Department for the Aging (DFTA) Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H., and Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Katherine Oliver detailed initiatives to increase falls prevention awareness among older adults and caregivers, including a new website devoted to falls prevention and the formation of a broad coalition of community partners that will address the issue at the grassroots level. Falls continue to be a leading cause of fatal injuries in the older adult population. Although the risk of falls increases with age, it can be mitigated by steps such as fixing trip and fall hazards in the home, reviewing and eliminating unnecessary medications, getting annual eye exams and staying in good physical shape.

The announcement took place at the Educational Alliance’s Sirovich Senior Center, located in Manhattan’s East Village. During the event “Sit and Be Fit” host Mary Ann Wilson, RN, led a group of local senior citizens in a group exercise as part of the show’s “Fitness Fridays.” NYC life, part of the official network of the City of New York, filmed the workout, which is scheduled to air as a future episode in the upcoming season. The engaging exercise series, which airs on NYC life weekdays at 3 p.m., shows ways seniors can maintain their physical health and help to prevent falls. These falls prevention efforts are part of the age-friendly NYC initiative, a set of 59 programs aimed at making New York City the most livable city in the nation for older New Yorkers.

“Certain medications increase the risk of falling and some combinations can pose the same danger. With more than one quarter of older adults regularly using five or more medications, older New Yorkers need to talk with their doctors about whether they still need to take all of them. If you’re an older New Yorker, ask your doctor to review all your medicines – including herbals, supplements and over-thecounter medicines – to see if they put you at risk and ask if they can be stopped,” said Farley.

“As the number of older adults in New York City grows, it becomes increasingly important that seniors become aware of the simple measures they can take to minimize the risk factors that can cause a fall,” Barrios-Paoli said. “Physical activity can help older adults improve balance and prevent falls. Older New Yorkers take pride in the ability to live independently, and this education and awareness effort will make it safer for them to continue to do so.”

There are more than 1.3 million older New Yorkers living in the city today. This number is expected to grow by 46% by 2030, potentially increasing the number of falls. Every year New York City emergency departments treat more than 24,000 older adults for injuries due to falls while hospitals admit almost 18,000 older adults for fall-related injuries. Each year, approximately 300 older adults die in New York City from falls, accounting for nearly half of all injury-related deaths.

A coalition of community based organizations, academic institutions and city agencies which includes AARP (New York City Chapter), the Brookdale Center on Aging, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the Martha Stewart Center for Living, the New York Academy of Medicine, Public Health Solutions, St. John’s College of Pharmacy, the Touro College of Pharmacy, the United Hospital Fund, VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY), was formed to bring attention and solutions to the issue of falls among older adults.

Some of the ways seniors can address the issue include: Talking to your health care provider about an appropriate exercise plan that focuses on balance, strength and flexibility;

Having your vision checked regularly and reviewing medications with your health care provider to reduce the risk of falling;

Fixing slip and trip hazards in your home such as improper lighting, excess clutter or unsecured rugs and wires;

And, joining one of DFTA’s 256 senior centers to take advantage of free health and wellness programs.

Health care providers who serve older adults can learn more about these important issues in the Health Department publications, “Preventing Falls in Older Adults in the Community” and “Age-Friendly Primary Care,” both available at nyc.gov/health.

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