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Institute for Aging Research study finds indoor and outdoor fall are different for the elderly
Date:9/7/2010

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Dr. Hannan says the study has several implications. First, a fall is not necessarily a marker of poor health. In fact, almost half of all falls occurred outdoors, and people who fell outdoors had the same or better health than those who did not fall at all. Second, epidemiological studies of risk factors for falls in older people may be hampered when falls are combined, with important associations between risk factors and indoor and outdoor falls potentially being missed. Third, intervention programs need to be tailored differently for people more likely to fall outdoors than those who tend to fall indoors.

"Most fall prevention programs emphasize the prevention of indoor falls, particularly through strength, balance and gait training; use of assistive devices; treatment of medical conditions; reduction in the use of certain medications; improvement in vision; and the elimination of home hazards," write Dr. Hannan and her colleagues.

Many of these programs do not take into account the causes of outdoor falls, she says. Falls interventions for community-dwelling seniors, she adds, should consider their health status, activity level, and other characteristics. Most seniors who fall outdoors do so on sidewalks, streets or curbs, or in parking lots.

"Healthy, active older people should be aware of their surroundings, especially when walking outdoors," says Dr. Hannan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "More attention needs to be paid to the elimination of outdoor environmental hazards involving sidewalks, curbs and streets, such as repairing uneven surfaces, removing debris, installing ramps at intersections, and painting curbs."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of seniors who live in the community fall each year, with many suffering moderate to severe injuries, including hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries. At least half of these falls occur outd
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Contact: Scott Edwards
edwards@hrca.harvard.edu
781-247-8172
Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research
Source:Eurekalert

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