If you have aging parents who fall — and most of us have some experience with parent falls — read the article about senior falling in the September 9, 2010 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. On its website (not active in January 2012) , the Mobilize Boston Study organization that conducted the research states that, “The purpose of the study is to collect information that will help us learn how older adults can maintain their health and independence longer.” The article abstract is free, but the article itself requires payment (or you can visit the library at your local hospital). A lot of good information is also available at the study’s website.
Identifying the differences between senior falls that occurred inside and those that occurred outside, the Mobilize Boston Study followed a cohort of 765 randomly selected men and women, most over 70 years old. Researchers collected data through questionnaires and medical examinations. During a median follow-up period of 21.7 months, 1,122 total falls occurred, consisting of 598 indoors and 524 outdoors. The authors reminded readers that 35 – 40 percent of people age 65 and older fall each year. All study participants were Boston, Massachusetts residents, and they reported falls as they occurred.
Indoor and Outdoor Falls in Older Adults are Different: The Maintenance of Balance, Independent Living, Intellect, and Zest in the Elderly of Boston Study reported that much of the previous research considered falls as one category. However these researchers found, “Older people at risk for indoor falls were different from older people at high risk for outdoor falls.” Interestingly, relatively active people fall outside and relatively frail people, who do not go out very often, fall inside, so this study looked at them separately and examined how the two kinds of falls differ. Different types of risks that cause the two types of falls were identified. The authors discovered that people who fell outdoors were almost as healthy as people who do not fall at all. In fact, the article points out that “…a fall is not necessarily a sign of existing or impending poor health.”
The authors found that most fall prevention interventions focus on making accommodations inside rather than outside, and the authors recommend that more attention be given to eliminating structural problems that cause outside falls. Moreover, future research should focus on the two different types of falls rather than considering them as a whole.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded this study.