If you have aging parents who falls — and recently one of my parents took a spill — read the article about senior falling in the September 2010 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Mobilize Boston, the organization that conducted the research stated on its website 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).
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. 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.
Resources Links on Falling
- CDC Home Fall Prevention Checklist
- Fall Prevention Center of Excellence Fall Prevention Basics
- An interesting description of research on falls at Virginia Tech (check out the short video)