August 06, 2021
As we age, we still want to continue to do activities that we enjoy and to do so without injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is launching Still Going Strong, a national campaign that brings attention to ways older adults (age 65 and older) can age without injury.
The campaign is raising awareness about the leading causes of unintentional injuries and deaths in older adults. Still Going Strong encourages older adults to continue participating in their favorite hobbies and activities, while informing them and their caregivers of steps they can take to prevent injuries such as falls, motor vehicle crashes and traumatic brain injury (TBI) that disproportionately impact this population.
“Injuries do not have to be a normal part of aging; in fact, many injuries common in older adults can be prevented,” said Bart Francis, MD, ARH Emergency Medicine. “Taking proactive steps can prevent life-changing injuries from happening and keeping your independence and mobility for as long as possible.
According to the CDC, older adults had over 2.4 million emergency department (ED) visits and 700,000 hospitalizations related to injuries from falls, motor vehicle crashes, opioid overdoses and self-harm in 2018. Unintentional falls accounted for over 90% of these ED visits and hospitalizations.
· Falls. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults. An older adult falls every second of the day, accounting for over 36 million falls each year. Of those falls, one out of every five causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury. After an older adult falls, their chances of falling again and getting injured increases.
· Motor Vehicle Crashes. Older adults account for over 46 million licensed drivers in the United States—or 1 in 5 drivers. Driving helps older adults stay independent, but the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as we age. Every day, 700 older adults are injured in a motor vehicle crash and 22 die because of their injuries.
· TBI. Falls and motor vehicle crashes are common causes of TBI in older adults. TBI is a major cause of death and disability, and those who survive a TBI can face effects that last a few days or the rest of their lives.
Senior adults and their families or caregivers can take simple steps to prevent injuries from falls or car crashes. The most important thing to do is to talk to your healthcare providers—including general practitioners, specialists, physical therapists and pharmacists.
“Communication with your healthcare providers is key in staying healthy,” said Dr. Francis. “Understanding possible side effects to your medications and what to do if you experience any can help prevent a fall or a TBI.”
Dr. Francis also suggests that senior adults have their vision checked and discuss possible night blindness while driving. If this could be a problem, then discuss with your family or caregiver alternative transportation for going places during the evening hours.
Regarding falls, Dr. Francis says to remove all throw rugs and keep hallways indoors and pathways outdoors clear from furnishings or clutter.
“Keeping active is important at any age,” noted Dr. Francis. “So is making safe choices. Talk to your family, caregiver and your healthcare providers about healthy and safe ways to keep enjoying life no matter what your age.”
If you want to schedule an appointment with an ARH healthcare provider, you can locate one near you onwww.arh.org. Also, you can learn more about the Still Going Strong campaign at www.cdc.gov/StillGoingStrong.