As more seniors receive long-term care in their homes and communities, a recent study has found a low-cost way to use existing aging services to aid in falls prevention.
The Healthy Steps for Older Adults program reduced falls in the elderly by 17 percent in Pennsylvania, where it was examined by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Results of their study will be published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health and are available online now.
"A challenge for public health officials is to decrease the risk of falls without encouraging reduced physical activity," says lead author Steven Albert, PhD, chairman of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the school. The study was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health.
The Healthy Steps for Older Adults program is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and is administrated by volunteers at senior centers. The program offers risk screening for falls and educational information regarding fall prevention for adults aged least at 50 years. Participants who are identified as being at high risk for falls are referred to primary care providers and are encouraged to complete home safety assessments, which identify modifications—including banisters and grab bars—that can be made to their homes to reduce hazards that could put them at greater risk for falls.
"Though further analyses will be necessary to understand specifically how these actions translated into a 17 percent reduction in falls, it appears that referrals for physician care and home safety assessments, along with informing older adults of their high-risk status and heightening their sensitivity to situations involving a risk of falling, may lead to reductions in falls," Albert says.