Elderly people are more unsteady on their feet and fall more often. When they fall, they are more likely than a younger person to sustain a serious injury. These injuries can easily prove fatal, particularly if the person has other medical conditions such as heart disease or emphysema. For many elderly people, a fall-related injury, although it may seem fairly minor, proves to be fatal. As the graph below shows, most of the accidental injury deaths in elderly people here in Travis County are due to ground level falls (tripping, missteps, poor balance, etc..).

These deaths are preventable. Older individuals need to be more careful when moving about, don't take any risks, use a walker or cane when needed, avoid having area rugs in their residences, be particularly careful on steps, have safety grips installed in bathrooms, and wear comfortable and snugly fitting shoes. They need to be careful about slippery wet/waxed surfaces and uneven pavement, and to ask for assistance when needed.

Accidental deaths in Travis County elderly individuals (>65 years old).
Mechanism of injury.

The most common severe injuries that elderly people get when they fall are hip fractures and injuries of their head. Our bones become weaker as we age, and are more likely to fracture with a fall or any other type of physical impact. Because many elderly people have heart disease, they are often placed on blood thinners. If they should happen to hit their head when they fall, they are more likely to develop bleeding on their brain that can prove fatal. Many older people have so many other medical problems that a fall proves to be fatal.

Area of the body injured in fall-related deaths in elderly individuals in Travis County, 2009.

For more information:

Fall Prevention Center of Excellence - www.stopfalls.org/
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control - www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/spotlite/falls.htm