September 9, 2010

Indoor Falls Different From Outdoor Falls

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The risk factors for indoor and outdoor falls for older adults are different, according to a new study.  Researchers believe their work may impact how fall prevention programs are structured.

"People at high risk for indoor falls are different in many ways from those at high risk of outdoor falls.  Failure to separate the two can mask important information on risk factors and may hamper the effectiveness of fall prevention programs," senior author Marian T. Hannan, D.Sc., a senior scientist at the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School was quoted as saying.

The study found that indoor falls are associated with an inactive lifestyle, disability and poor health, while outdoor falls are associated with higher levels of activity and average or better-than-average health.

Older adults who fell outdoors were somewhat younger than those who fell indoors, more likely to be male and better educated, and had lifestyle characteristics of better health.  Those who fell indoors had more physical disabilities, took more medications and had lower cognitive function.

Dr. Hannan says this shows a fall is not necessarily a marker of poor health.  Also, intervention programs need to be tailored differently for people more likely to fall outdoors than those who tend to fall indoors.

"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," Dr. Hannan said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of seniors who live in the community fall each year, many suffering moderate to severe injuries.  At least half of these falls occur outdoors.