According to the CDC, each year sees about 36 million older people (aged 65 and older) fall, leading to an estimated 3 million trips to the emergency room. And falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
While approximately 80% of falls do not result in significant injuries, the remainder can lead to everything from a broken bone to a head injury. These outcomes can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, and/or continue living on their own.
Consider the following data:
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency department for a fall-related injury; every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.
- Falls can cause broken bones in the wrist, arm, ankle, and hip. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. These can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medications (like blood thinners).
- 2 out of 3 seniors who are admitted to the hospital because of a fall are discharged to nursing homes.
- Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker – and this actually increases their chances of falling.
What Conditions Make You More Likely to Fall?
Research has identified the following risk factors:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of certain medicines
- Vision problems
- Home hazards or dangers such as broken or uneven stairs, throw rugs, or clutter that can be tripped over
- Poor footwear
The more risk factors a person faces, the greater their chances of falling. However, many risk factors can be addressed to help prevent falls – including poor footwear.
Shoes linked to an increased risk of falling include those with inadequate fixation (no laces, straps, or buckles); heels that are higher than 1 inch (about 2.5 centimeters) and/or are less than 20% width of your own heel; and a reduced contact area of the sole and smooth tread. Instead, consider shoes featuring a more secure way to stay on your foot, such as shoelaces or Velcro, instead of slip-ons; feature thin, hard soles that prevent slipping; and include a supported heel collar, which grips your heel more firmly.
It is important to check your shoes every 3 months for excessive wear. If the treads are smooth, the sole is cracked or has a hole, the shoe is loose, or the lining is torn, it is time for a new pair of shoes.
Tips for Putting On and Taking Off Shoes
If you have a hard time putting on or taking off your shoes, try the following tips to help:
- Use a shoehorn with a long handle to help you put on shoes if you can’t comfortably reach down to your feet.
- Use elastic, “stretchy” shoelaces that let you slip your shoes on and off, so you don’t have to tie and untie them.
- Wear shoes with Velcro, which is easier to tighten around your foot than shoelaces are.
While choosing such shoes in a store or online is relatively simple, consider consulting a podiatrist if you’re unsure of how to proceed.